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US Criticizes Turkey for Hosting Hamas Leaders

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Hamas movement chief Ismail Haniyeh, prior to their meeting in Istanbul, Feb. 1, 2020.

The Trump administration says it strongly objects to Turkey’s recent hosting of two leaders of Hamas, which the United States regards as a terrorist group.

“President Erdogan’s continued outreach to this terrorist organization only serves to isolate Turkey from the international community, harms the interests of the Palestinian people, and undercuts global efforts to prevent terrorist attacks launched from Gaza,” a State Department statement said Tuesday.

It pointed out that one of the Hamas members who was in Istanbul is alleged to have been involved in multiple terrorist attacks, hijackings, and kidnappings.

“We continue to raise our concerns about the Turkish government’s relationship with Hamas at the highest levels,” it adds.

Turkey is dismissing the U.S. criticism.

“Declaring the legitimate representative of Hamas, who came to power after winning democratic elections in Gaza and is an important reality of the region, as a terrorist will not be of any contribution to efforts for peace and stability in the region,” its foreign ministry said.

This is the second time since February Turkey has played host to Hamas leaders, the United States says.

Hamas rules Palestinian Gaza and has fought three wars with Israel. Palestinian militants occasionally launch rockets into Israel from Gaza, sparking a harsh response from Israel.