BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan met with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal on Friday in the Turkish city of Istanbul, amid ongoing negotiations between the Turkish president and Israeli leaders to normalize ties between the two countries, according to various media sources.
Erdogan and Meshaal reportedly discussed strategies to ease humanitarian issues for Palestinians, specifically in Gaza, and ways to reconcile political differences between Hamas and Fatah -- two of Palestine’s largest political factions.
However, no sources reported any discussions between Erdogan and Meshaal on Turkey’s expected political normalization with Israel during the meeting.
An agreement between Turkey and Israel is expected to be finalized on Sunday, which would see the two countries resume their political relationship following an Israeli attack six years ago
on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara -- the first Freedom Flotilla -- which was attempting to deliver much-needed humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza Strip.
Part of Israel’s preconditions to normalize ties with Turkey has been for Erdogan to oust Hamas from the country and shut down an alleged command unit used by Hamas in Istanbul, Israeli media reported
However, the request was reportedly refused by Erdogan, as he reiterated the government's longstanding denial of the existence of a Hamas command unit in operation in the country.
According to Israeli media, under the ongoing negotiations, Turkey has demanded that Israel lift the near decades-long siege on Gaza. However, Israel has continuously refused the stipulation.
It is expected, instead, that Israel could allow Turkey to transfer aid to Gaza via the Ashdod port in southern Israel, as well as permitting authorities to build a hospital in the besieged enclave and construct a power and desalinization plant.
Turkey has also reportedly demanded an apology from the Israeli government for the attack on the Freedom Flotilla, and requested compensation for the incident.
The Gaza Strip has suffered under an Israeli military blockade since 2007 when Hamas was elected to rule over Gaza.
Residents of Gaza suffer from high unemployment and poverty rates, as well as the consequences of three devastating wars with Israel since 2008.
The UN has warned that unless current trends were altered, Gaza could become uninhabitable for residents in less than five years. "The social, health and security-related ramifications of the high population density and overcrowding are among the factors that may render Gaza unlivable by 2020," the UN's development agency said last year.