The head of the Hamas terrorist group was among the first foreign officials to congratulate Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his apparent election victory Sunday.
Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh phoned Erdogan Sunday evening, according to a statement posted on Hamas’s official website.
Haniyeh congratulated Erdogan and said he would dispatch a delegation to Turkey in the coming days, and indicated a willingness to deepen ties with Ankara, the statement said.
Several world leaders supportive of Erdogan, including Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, also called to congratulate him on his “victory,” the presidency said.
Erdogan has been among Hamas’s strongest supporters on the world stage, and Turkey under him has been accused of harboring leaders of the terrorist group and allowing it to launder money for militant activities.
Israel had demanded that Turkey downgrade its relationship with Hamas during detente talks ahead of a resumption of ties in 2016.
The two countries cut ties in 2010 after Israeli forces raided a Turkish boat – MV Mavi Marmara – that was attempting to break the naval blockade Israel set up around the Gaza Strip to prevent Hamas, which has called for Israel’s destruction, from importing weapons. In the ensuing melee, 10 Turkish activists were killed and a number of Israeli soldiers were wounded.
In February, Turkey denied a Shin Bet accusation that it had allowed Hamas operatives to launder money through the country.
Erdogan has been among Israel’s most strident critics, likening its policies to that of Nazi Germany and sparring with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on more than one occasion.
Erdogan, whose Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) party first swept to power in 2002, was poised Sunday night to clinch another term as president, declaring victory for himself based on unofficial results.
Erdogan was on course to defeat his nearest rival Muharrem Ince with more than half the vote without needing a second round, initial results showed.