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Hamas chief Haniyeh to visit Turkey this weekend: Erdogan

— Istanbul (AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday he would host a leader of Palestinian militant group Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, in Turkey this weekend.

"The leader of the Palestinian cause will be my guest this weekend," Erdogan, an outspoken critic of Israel, told lawmakers.

While Erdogan did not say where he would meet the Hamas political leader, a Turkish official said that they would hold talks on Saturday at the Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul.

"Even if only I, Tayyip Erdogan, remain, I will continue as long as God gives me my life, to defend the Palestinian struggle and to be the voice of the oppressed Palestinian people," the president said, calling Hamas a "resistance group".

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan was in Qatar Wednesday and said he spent three hours with Haniyeh and his aides for "a wide exchange of views in particular about negotiations for a ceasefire."

Qatar, a mediator between Israel and Hamas, acknowledged Wednesday that negotiations to end hostilities in Gaza and liberate hostages were "stalling".

Fidan said he spoke with Haniyeh, who lives in Qatar, about how Hamas "must clearly express its expectations, especially about a two-state solution."

Erdogan's last meeting with Haniyeh was in July 2023 when Erdogan hosted Haniyeh and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas at the presidential palace in Ankara. Haniyeh had last met Fidan in Turkey on January 2.

- Erdogan to visit Iraq -

The Turkish leader has forged friendly ties with Haniyeh, 62, and last week offered condolences for the death of his three sons and some of his grandchildren in an Israeli strike in Gaza.

Erdogan has called Israel a "terrorist state" and accused it of conducting a "genocide" in Gaza. He has called Hamas "liberators" or "mujahideen" fighting for their land.

The current war in Gaza was sparked by the militant group's attack on Israel on October 7, 2023 that claimed 1,170 lives, mostly civilians, according to Israeli figures.

The militants also took about 250 hostages, of whom Israel estimates 129 remain in Gaza, including 34 who are presumed dead.

Israel has responded with a ground and air offensive that the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said has killed at least 33,899 people, mostly women and children.

Also on Wednesday, Turkey's Defence Minister Yasar Guler announced that Erdogan would visit Iraq on Monday, confirming an earlier announcement that had not given a date.

The two countries may sign a strategic agreement, he added, without elaborating.

Erdogan said on Tuesday that he would soon be visiting Baghdad, with a possible stopover in Arbil, capital of the oil-rich autonomous Kurdistan region in the north of the country.

Turkey regularly carries out military operations over the border into Iraq's Kurdistan region in pursuit of fighters from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

PKK has carried out a decades-long insurgency for Kurdish independence and is considered a terror group by Turkey and most of its Western allies.

Both Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government have been accused of tolerating Turkey's military activities inside Iraq to preserve their close economic ties.

This will be Erdogan's first visit to Iraq since 2011.