Turkey’s Erdogan meets the political leader of Hamas

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan received Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Istanbul on Saturday to hold talks on increasing humanitarian aid to Gaza and securing a stable peace in the region, the president’s office said in a statement.

Saturday’s visit marked the first time Erdogan, who has consistently described the armed Palestinian group as a “liberation movement,” met with Hamas leaders since the outbreak of war in Gaza last October. Last week, Haniyeh also met with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan in Doha.

Erdogan’s support for Hamas compared to the rest of NATO is a major point of tension between Turkey and Israel, and the two states have seen their relationship deteriorate significantly in recent weeks following Ankara’s decision to impose trade restrictions against Israel.

“Issues related to Israel’s attacks on the Palestinian territories, in particular Gaza, efforts to ensure an adequate and uninterrupted delivery of humanitarian assistance to Gaza, and a fair and sustainable peace process in the region were discussed,” the statement read .

The statement also notes that Erdogan reiterated to Haniyeh during the meeting that Turkey would continue to use all diplomatic channels at its disposal to secure a permanent ceasefire and the conditions for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Erdogan, whose electoral power base is rooted in rural and Muslim voters, has been widely criticized in recent months by those who say his government is not doing enough to help the Palestinians.