Turkish PM says to visit Gaza next week

Updated: 2012-11-28 16:24


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ANKARA - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he could make a visit to Gaza next week, days after Israel and Hamas secured an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire deal, local newspaper Today's Zaman reported on Wednesday.

On Hamas' leader Khaled Meshaal's visit to Gaza on Dec 5, Erdogan told reporters on a plane en route from Spain's Madrid to the Turkish capital of Ankara late Tuesday that he could accompany him to Gaza.

"Yesterday I had talks with Khaled Meshaal. I could make a surprise to you (by visiting Gaza). He invited. And said they are ready," Erdogan said.

Erdogan has twice planned to visit Gaza, but could not arrange the trip due to several reasons. He was planning to visit Gaza earlier this month during his Egypt trip, yet failed to do so after Israel launched a military operation in Gaza.

Israel started the offensive on November 14 to halt renewed rocket fire from Gaza, unleashing some 1,500 airstrikes on Hamas-linked targets, while Hamas and other Gaza militants showered Israel with just as many rockets. A total of eight days of punishing Israeli airstrikes on Gaza and a barrage of Hamas rocket fire at southern Israel ended inconclusively last Wednesday.

During the offensive, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu visited the narrow enclave along with a dozen Arab ministers to show solidarity with the Gazans.

The relations between former allies Israel and Turkey soured after Israeli marines boarded a Gaza-bound Turkish vessel in May 2010, which resulted in the death of nine Turks.

The ship was part of a six-fleet flotilla that aimed to break the blockade that Israel imposed on Gaza after Hamas took control of the coastal region. Israel had in advance warned the ships that they would not be allowed to break the siege and five of the ships were intercepted, but nine protesters, including eight Turkish and one US-Turkish were killed aboard the Mavi Marmara.