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Turkey's foreign minister meets with exiled Hamas leader

By Ivan Watson, CNN
Khaled Meshaal gestures as he gives a speech in Damascus on June 28, 2010.
Khaled Meshaal gestures as he gives a speech in Damascus on June 28, 2010.
  • The Turkish foreign minister meets in Syria with Hamas leader Meshaal
  • Davutoglu also met with Syria's president and Lebanese prime minister
  • Israeli-Turkish relations soured in 2006 after Meshaal made an official visit to Turkey
  • Their ties were further strained when Israel raided a Turkish aid flotilla to Gaza
  • Turkey
  • Hamas

Istanbul, Turkey (CNN) -- Turkey's foreign minister met with Hamas' leader-in-exile Khaled Meshaal during a visit to Syria Monday, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry confirmed Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al Hariri during his Damascus visit, spokesman Selim Yenel said. Turkish media reported he also held talks with former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi and radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Yenel said he did not have details about the discussion between Davutoglu and Meshaal.

Turkey, once Israel's only Muslim ally in the Middle East, was condemned by the Israeli government when it hosted Meshaal on an official visit in 2006. Hamas had just swept parliamentary elections in the Palestinian territories. Davutoglu, then a key foreign policy adviser to the Turkish prime minister, was seen as the architect of the Hamas visit.

Yigal Palmor, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said the meeting would not make change Hamas' actions.

"So one wonders what is the point of talking to an organization that refuses and rejects the idea of solving problems through dialog," he said.

Israel and the United States both formally label Hamas a terrorist organization.

Turkish-Israeli relations have sharply deteriorated over the last two years, since Israel mounted a military offensive on Hamas-ruled Gaza. Relations hit rock bottom after Israeli commandos raided a Turkish aid flotilla steaming toward Gaza in May, leaving eight Turks and one Turkish-American citizen dead.