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Last Updated: Friday, 17 February 2006, 16:31 GMT
Turkey rejects Israeli criticism
Khaled Meshaal in Turkey
Israel has refused to deal with a Hamas-led Palestinian government
Turkey has rejected Israeli criticism of its decision to meet a delegation of the Palestinian militant group, Hamas.

Israeli spokesman Ranaan Gissin had compared the move to Israel inviting separatist Kurdish rebels for talks and said it could damage bilateral ties.

However, the Turkish foreign ministry described the comparison as "completely groundless and wrong".

Turkish officials have urged Hamas to renounce violence and adopt a conciliatory attitude towards Israel.

The Hamas delegation, led by the Islamist group's exiled political leader, Khaled Meshaal, said it would take the advice seriously.


Turkey said Mr Gissin's remarks were "unfortunate".

"We believe the comparisons made in the declarations are completely groundless and wrong," a statement said.

"We have conveyed to the Israeli side our dissatisfaction and discomfort over the statements which were possibly made on domestic political concerns," it added.

I wonder what the Turkish authorities would think if we were to invite [PKK leader] Abdullah Ocalan for talks in Israel?
Raanan Gissin

Speaking to Turkish NTV on Thursday, Mr Gissin said Turkey's decision to hold talks with Hamas was a serious mistake.

"This visit could have consequences for our links that could be hard to repair," he said.

"I wonder what the Turkish authorities would think if we were to invite [jailed Kurdistan Workers Party leader] Abdullah Ocalan for talks in Israel?"

The Turkish government has refused to hold talks with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is blacklisted by the US and EU.

Earlier this week, Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul said the meeting with Hamas fulfilled the government's international responsibilities in trying to steer the Palestinians towards peace, after Hamas won a majority in January's parliamentary elections.

Israel has refused to deal with a Hamas-led Palestinian administration unless the group gives up armed struggle and recognises the state of Israel.

The militant group has so far rejected the demands, but it has been observing an informal truce with Israel.

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