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Turkey's Erdogan strikes moderate stance as Israel-Hamas war rages

Turkey's Erdogan is striking a neutral stance in the Gaza conflict, avoiding incendiary rhetoric that would derail his charm offensive with the West and offering to mediate between Israel and Hamas.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a protest rally against the recent killings of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza-Israel border and the US Embassy move to Jerusalem, in Istanbul, May 18, 2018.

As the conflict in the Gaza Strip enters its third day, Turkey’s offer to mediate between Israel and Hamas is drawing mixed reactions with Israel’s envoy to Ankara, Irit Lillian, saying it is “too early” to talk about mediation offers amid worries that Turkish-Israeli reconciliation efforts may collapse under the weight of the Palestinian issue. 

Erdogan held separate phone calls with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas today in which he assured both leaders that Turkey was doing its best  for calm to be restored. According to a readout from the Turkish Presidency Erdogan told Herzog  that Israel should avoid steps that would “harm the people of Gaza collectively and indiscriminately”  and further escalate suffering violence in the region.  

In a briefing with journalists on Sunday, Lillian said “mediation comes at a different point in time. Right now we are unfortunately counting the dead, we are trying to heal the wounded, we don’t even know what is the number of citizens abducted,” she said.

Lillian’s comments came as Erdogan reiterated Ankara’s formal position that lasting peace in the Middle East “is only possible through a final settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict” during the inauguration of the first Syriac Orthodox church to be built in modern Turkey. Recalling that the Ottomans had ruled over Jerusalem for more than four centuries, Erdogan said Turkey would ramp up diplomatic efforts to defuse the crisis. However, the establishment of an independent and geographically integrated Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders, with (east) Jerusalem as its capital was “a necessity that can no longer be delayed,” Erdogan said.

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