ADDS PALESTINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER'S REMARKS
By Fatih Hafiz Mehmet and Hiba Sait
ANKARA (AA) - The Turkish foreign minister on Saturday criticized the U.S. decision to add Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh’s name in its terror list.
Speaking at a joint news conference with his Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Maliki in the southern Antalya province, Mevlut Cavusoglu said the timing of the U.S. decision was “suspicious”.
On Wednesday, the U.S. government dubbed Haniyeh a “specially designated global terrorist” and imposed a raft of sanctions against him.
"They took this decision at a time when unity inside Palestine has started to be secured," Cavusoglu said, referring to the reconciliation process between Fatah and Hamas.
He said Hamas had participated in the 2005 elections, which was observed by Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe and was evaluated to be democratic and transparent.
Since then, the foreign minister added, Hamas has acted on political grounds.
Al-Maliki expressed the Palestinian leadership’s condemnation of the U.S. decision considering its timing as “an attempt to thwart efforts to complete and succeed the reconciliation process”
- 'US double standards'
He stressed that the Palestinian leadership will “pursue [the reconciliation] with Mr. Ismail Haniyeh as the chief of political bureau of the Hamas Movement] [...} for the sake of the Palestinian people”.
On Washington’s announced plans to withhold $65 million of aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), al-Maliki pointed out that, the U.S. decision aims at puting pressures on the Palestinian Authority.
Last month, Washington announced plans to withhold $65 million of aid to the UNRWA “until further consideration.
"If the U.S. is so sensitive about terrorism, they should cut their support to the YPG/PKK terror organization. This decision is another example of the U.S.’s double standards on the issue of terrorism," Cavusoglu said.
The PKK -- recognized as a terrorist group by the U.S., EU, and Turkey -- has taken 40,000 lives in its 30-year terrorist campaign against Turkey.
Despite Turkey documenting how the PYD/PKK and YPG/PKK are Syrian offshoots of the PKK, the U.S. has supported the terror groups as “reliable allies” in its fight against Daesh.
The UNRWA provides services to some 5.9 million Palestinian refugees in the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to clear PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin, northwestern Syria.
According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to protect Syrians from terrorist oppression and cruelty.
The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.
The military also said only terror targets are being destroyed and that the "utmost care" is being taken to avoid harming civilians.
Earlier, Cavusoglu and al-Maliki signed a document revealing that Turkey has transferred $3.5 million of $10 million agreed upon in 2017, to Palestine.
The donation agreement between Turkey and Palestine was signed on Sept. 15, 2017 and it was published in the Turkish official gazette on Dec. 14. It aims to help social and economic development of Palestine.
Cavusoglu said Ankara would continue supporting development projects in Palestine.