U.S. Has Not Expressed Concerns Over Hamas Leader in Turkey

Turkish official says no ‘concerns’ expressed to Turkey following Hamas coup plot

August 20, 2014

The Obama administration has not expressed to Turkey any concerns over recent reports indicating that a senior Hamas operative operating in Turkey had been implicated in a coup plot to overthrow the Palestinian government in the West Bank and wage war on Israel, according to a Turkish official.

The State Department on Monday defended new missile sales to Turkey just hours after news emerged that Ankara is hosting a senior Hamas operative who Israel accused of hatching a plan to violently overthrow the Palestinian Fatah government in the West Bank.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf did not respond yesterday to Free Beacon requests for comment on whether the Obama administration had related any concerns to Ankara over its reported sheltering of Hamas official Saleh Al-Arouri, who is said to have been responsible for planning the kidnapping of three Israeli teens who were killed by Hamas.

A Turkish official confirmed to the Free Beacon late Tuesday that the Obama administration has not reached out to express concerns over the reports about the alleged coup and rejected allegations that Turkey may be aiding Al-Arouri.

"Turkey strongly condemns and rejects such allegations. As a matter of fact Turkey’s strong support to the National Unity Government in Palestine and to the President [Mahmoud] Abbas himself is self-explanatory and refutes such accusations," the official said.

The Turkish official further noted that "U.S. authorities are well aware" of Turkey’s support for Abbas and his government.

"Since U.S. authorities are well aware of Turkey’s aforementioned position, there has been no such concern [expressed by the Obama administration] as you mention in your email which has been conveyed to the Turkish side," the official said.

Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also addressed the controversy in a statement issued Tuesday in Turkish.

"Turkey is at the top of the list of countries that have supported the Palestinian reconciliation" between Hamas and Fatah, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in the statement, which was translated for the Free Beacon by Merve Tahiroglu, a research associate for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). "In this regard, our country has welcomed and supported the Palestinian unity government that was formed on June 2."

Turkey views this unity government as "an indispensible element" for peace in the region and "the welfare of the Palestinian people," the statement adds.

Turkey maintains that is has not "overlooked any attempts to overthrow the Palestinian national unity government," according to the statement. "We strongly reject and condemn such slander. Turkey's close contact and strong cooperation with the Palestinian administration will, just as it has been in the past, continue with determination in the future."

A heated back-and-forth between reporters and Harf broke out at the State Department’s daily briefing on Monday and Tuesday when questions emerged about why the administration is going through with the transfer of U.S. missiles to Turkey while simultaneously holding up similar weapons shipments to Israel.

Harf again on Tuesday ducked questions by reporters asking if the U.S. government had conveyed concerns to Turkey over the plot.

"Do you have any concerns at all about the apparent role of Turkey in this?" AP reporter Matt Lee asked Harf.

"I don’t have any more details on this, Matt. I’m happy to check with our team," Harf responded.

"Okay. Because I did ask this yesterday. You weren’t aware of the incident, but … now, the Israelis say that this is all being planned and funded from Turkish territory," Lee followd up.

"Well, as I said, I think it involves some Hamas militants and cash, but let me check on that piece of it. I certainly have nothing to confirm that," Harf told Lee.

"I’m most curious to know if you guys are planning to raise any concerns with the—I don't know, maybe you don’t have any concerns … if you’ll raise them with the Turks," Lee responded.

Harf responded that she would "check on that."

Harf maintained on Monday that the Turkish and Israeli arms shipments are completely separate matters.

"Turkey is also a NATO ally," she told reporters. "So for all of us who are—talk a lot about the importance of the NATO alliance, particularly when it comes to Russia and Ukraine and what’s happening there, we think it’s important to provide our NATO allies with resources. We think that’s an important use of our resources. The two [cases] aren’t comparable, but those are the facts behind them, I would say."

Additionally, Harf could not explain to reporters the exact process taking place behind the scenes regarding the hold up in Israeli arms shipments.

"I don’t know how the process specifically works in that granularity," she said, when faced with questions about who in the government holds veto power over the arms shipments.

When asked later in the briefing to comment on reports about the Turkey-backed Hamas coup, Harf could not provide much information.

"I don’t have anything to confirm those [reports]," she said. "I hadn’t heard about that otherwise. I can check," she told reporters.

Published under: Hamas , Turkey