Turkey is urging Palestinian factions to agree on the formation of a unity government.
(Ynet News, Xinhua - 23/06/11; Zaman, Hurriyet, World Bulletin, AFP, AP, Jerusalem Post, Palestine News Network - 22/06/11; Euronews - 21/06/11)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (left) and Turkish President Abdullah Gul met on Thursday (June 23rd) at the Presidential Palace of Cankaya in Ankara. [Reuters]
Turkey pledged on Wednesday (June 22nd) to make every effort to help rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas reach an agreement on a unity government to prepare the territory for legislative and presidential elections within a year.
"We attach great importance to reconciliation between Palestinians," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters a day after his talks with Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in Istanbul. "Turkey will do anything in its power for this reconciliation."
Davutoglu, who has sought to boost Ankara's role and influence as a key regional player since his appointment in 2009, has urged the Hamas chief to maintain Palestinian unity, according to Turkey's pro-government daily Zaman.
Meshaal landed in Istanbul unannounced on Tuesday, shortly after Palestinian leader and head of the Fatah political party, Mahmud Abbas, began a four-day visit to Turkey the same afternoon.
Under a deal signed last month in Cairo, the two factions -- at odds since Hamas routed Fatah forces in 2007 and seized control of the Gaza Strip -- agreed to establish an interim unity government made up of independent figures in the run-up to elections within 12 months. Abbas and Mashaal were earlier scheduled to meet in Cairo on Tuesday for talks on the composition of the new cabinet. But that meeting was postponed indefinitely due to a disagreement over who should head the unity government.
Abbas has reportedly been pushing for Western-backed Salam Fayyad's reappointment as prime minister, while Hamas is opposed to the US-educated economist's nomination.
A Palestinian official cited the Fatah leader's trip to Turkey as the main reason for the postponement of the meeting in Cairo.
Turkish media reports said that Davutoglu, who attended the signing ceremony for the unity deal in May, exchanged views on the agreement between the two factions with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Elaraby in telephone conversations on both Tuesday and Wednesday.
Mashaal, who left Turkey on Wednesday, did not meet with Abbas, according to reports.
The Fatah leader would have a "private programme" before his talks with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Davutoglu on Thursday and a meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan the following day.
Citing London-based al-Quds al-Arabi, the Israeli Ynet news website reported on Thursday that Turkey had summoned Mashaal in order to convince him to accept Fayyad's appointment as prime minister of a Palestinian unity government.
The Palestinian authority is expected to adopt a declaration for an independent Palestinian state and then seek the UN General Assembly's support for it. In that context, Abbas's trip to Turkey is of particular importance, Euronews commented on Tuesday, noting that Gul has already announced his backing.