Erdogan Defends Hamas Amid US Concerns Over Turkey’s Support

(Bloomberg) -- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated his refusal to designate Hamas as a terrorist organization, dismissing concerns raised by a senior US Treasury official about this country’s alleged support for the group’s financial operations.

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“I can never accept Hamas as a terrorist organization, no matter what anyone says,” Erdogan said, responding to remarks by US Under-Secretary Brian Nelson, which expressing apprehension about Turkey’s suspected facilitation of Hamas’s financial dealings.

Hamas is a designated terrorist organization by the US and European Union.

The Financial Times reported that during Nelson’s visit to Ankara for talks on Palestinian militant group Hamas and American sanctions against Russian entities this week, concerns were voiced about Turkey’s historical involvement in enabling financial access to the group, particularly following an Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Nelson highlighted Hamas’s fundraising capabilities on Turkish soil for potential future attacks.

The differing viewpoints on the Israel-Hamas conflict have intensified discussions between the US and Turkey. While the US supports Israel’s self-defense measures and aims to restrict Hamas’s financial backing, Erdogan has vocally condemned Israel, labeling it as a “war criminal” and positioning Hamas as a movement for liberation.

Erdogan — speaking in an interview with a group of journalists on his way back from the United Arab Emirates — also emphasized the necessity of a two-state solution to resolve the conflict in Gaza. His appeal comes amid Israel’s indication of its intention to expand its campaign in the southern part of Gaza, raising concerns about a potential deepening of the humanitarian crisis in the territory.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he told Israeli leaders not to repeat the scale of destruction seen in northern Gaza. Still, the US has not threatened to attach conditions to military and financial assistance to Israel.

Criticizing Western countries, particularly the US and the UK, Erdogan urged a shift from focusing solely on the perceived Hamas threat to prioritizing a comprehensive two-state solution. Erdogan asserted that such an approach could potentially mitigate issues in Gaza and mutual threats, underlining that “excluding or eradicating” Hamas isn’t a realistic scenario.

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