The State Department on Tuesday objected to a recent meeting in Istanbul between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and two leaders of Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization that controls the Palestinian enclave of the Gaza Strip and is in an ongoing conflict with Israel.
State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said that both officials, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh and deputy chief Saleh Al-Aruri, are designated by the U.S. and European Union as “Specially Designated Global Terrorists.”
Al-Aruri is sought by American law enforcement for involvement in terrorist attacks, hijackings and kidnappings. The State Department’s Rewards for Justice program offers up to $5 million for information on Al-Aruri’s whereabouts.
“President Erdoğan’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,” Ortagus said in a statement.
“We continue to raise our concerns about the Turkish government’s relationship with Hamas at the highest levels. This is the second time President Erdogan has welcomed Hamas leadership to Turkey this year with the first meeting occurring February 1,” Ortagus said.
The meeting, which took place Saturday, featured a Hamas delegation including chief of Hamas abroad Maher Salah, head of Hamas’s Arab and Islamic relations office Ezzat Al-Rishiq and Hamas representative in Turkey Jihad Yaghmor, the organization said in a statement.
A Hamas spokesperson said they “hailed the Turkish honorable position in support of the Palestinian’s rights and steadfastness.”
The condemnation by the State Department follows remarks by President Trump at the Republican National Convention praising Erdoğan for the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson from a Turkish prison in 2018. Brunson was held for two years on disputed charges and his arrest was one of tens of thousands arrests that occurred after the 2016 coup attempt against Erodgan.
Trump has come under scrutiny for his close relationship to Erdoğan. The president has been criticized as being under the sway of the Turkish president for agreeing to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria after a phone call.
In addition, in John BoltonJohn BoltonHere are the high-profile Republicans backing Biden The Hill’s 12:30 Report – Speculation over Biden’s running mate announcement Ex-Trump adviser, impeachment witness Fiona Hill gets book deal MORE‘s book, “The room where it happened,” the former Trump national security adviser alleged that the president sought to disrupt a federal investigation into Turkey’s Halkbank and its role in funneling billions of dollars to Iran while under U.S. sanctions.