Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan greeted Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh as a visiting dignitary during a 2½ hour meeting in Istanbul Sunday. The two exchanged praises and shared condemnations of Israel's naval embargo on Gaza, meant to cut off weapons supplies to the terrorist-led government there.
"Erdogan stressed that Hamas was a legitimate liberation movement which was elected by the Palestinian people and the well of the Palestinian people must be respected," according to a report posted on Hamas' Al Qassam website. "Erdogan also stressed that ending the siege on Gaza was one of the three conditions that Turkey put to mend relations with Israel."
In May, the Turkish Prime Minister declared his support for Hamas in an interview, declaring it a "resistant movement trying to protect its country under occupation."
On Monday, Haniyeh visited the IHH Mavi Marmara ship docked in Istanbul, along with IHH President Bulent Yildirim.
The Hamas-tied Turkish group IHH was behind the May 2010 confrontation on board the Mavi Marmara that led to the death of eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American. The operatives were prepared by Yildirim and other hardcore Islamists to orchestrate a violent confrontation with Israeli commandos enforcing an embargo on the Hamas government.
"We will never surrender our lands or rights as the least we can do out of loyalty to the blood of martyrs of the Freedom Flotilla," Haniyeh told hundreds of Turks.
"The Palestinian cause won a victory with Mavi Marmara," Haniyeh added. "Thanks to Mavi Marmara, all the plots made on us were foiled. I greet all of our martyrs, I commemorate them with prayers. I hope to see you in Jerusalem, I say I hope to see you in Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine. I greet you all on behalf of Hamas and Ezzedeen Al-Qassam [the Hamas military wing]. Allah willing, we will win a victory. If you ask 'when,' my answer will be 'as soon as possible.'"
"But I say from here, from the banks of this sea, and this ship which has become a bright page in the history of the Ummah and the history of Palestine. I say. And I also proclaim the victory of the blood of the martyrs of the ship Marmara over the siege and victory over the Occupation," Haniyeh said, followed by chants of "Allah Akbar" [God is great] from the crowd.
Yildirim pledged future flotillas "until the blockade on Gaza is lifted. Now, the Mavi Marmara continues its mission on the land. Allah willing, after we complete our march in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and in some several other countries, we will set sail again and reunite with our sisters and brothers in Palestine."