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Turkey hosts Hamas and Fatah officials for Palestine unity talks

Turkish officials encourage rivals to resolve their differences as both sides discuss terms to create a joint technical committee
Demonstrators wave Turkish and Palestine flags, with a placard reading "Be a light for Jerusalem" during a rally in Istanbul to protest against the US Middle East plan (AFP)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

Turkey is hosting another round of Palestinian unity talks between rival factions Hamas and Fatah, following recent deals that earned Israel wider recognition with Gulf countries.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday and extended his appreciation for hosting the talks and urged Ankara to help with the negotiations.

A Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to government protocol, told Middle East Eye that Ankara wasn't directly involved in the negotiations but was encouraging both sides to establish a unity government and jointly defend Palestinian rights.

Some observers pointed out that Abbas, who used to have a distant relationship with Erdogan, turned to Ankara due to recent actions by Arab states that have alienated the Palestinian leadership.

"Palestinians used to hold these talks in different cities such as Beirut. But we don't give any significance to the choice of venue as Istanbul. It is up to them to decide where to talk," the official said. "However, we are ready to provide any assistance needed."

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Sources said that parties have been discussing the establishment of a joint committee to address technical disagreements and determine a general election date to form the next Palestinian government.

Both sides have been at odds with each other since 2007 when Hamas forces routed troops loyal to Fatah and Abbas and seized control of the territory.

However, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain's decision to normalise ties with Israel prompted a high level meeting between all of the 14 political factions in Palestine to bring an end to the dispute. 

Hamas, which has a more cordial relationship with Ankara, is believed to be represented by deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri, while Fatah sent a delegation that consists of Secretary General Jibril Rajoub and central committee member Rawhi Fattouh.

While Arab countries led by the UAE and Saudi Arabia are increasingly remaining silent about how Israel treats Palestinian, Erdogan has emerged as a strong defender of the Palestinian cause.

Erdogan’s frequent interactions with the Hamas leadership, including the reported issuance of Turkish passports to Hamas officials, have drawn a rebuke from the US and Israel in recent months.

While Israel and the US have designated Hamas as a terrorist group, Ankara has always treated Hamas as another Palestinian faction.

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