Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters Friday he hopes to become the next head of state to visit the Gaza Strip.
Erdogan said talks with Hamas, which controls the Strip, were underway to arrange a date for him to visit, Turkish daily Today’s Zaman reported.
Last month, Qatar’s emir became the first head of state to visit the territory since Hamas took power in 2007. Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Gazan causes, was feted with parades, songs and speeches during his stay.
The trip was seen a boost to the legitimacy of Hamas, a terror organization which has ruled Gaza since taking it by force from the secular Fatah movement.
Erdogan had been planning to make a visit in September but canceled at the last minute for unknown reasons.
Turkey was once considered Israel’s closest regional ally, but has all but severed ties since 2010, when nine Turkish activists aboard a boat trying to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza were killed by IDF commandos.
The Turkish premier, speaking to reporters on a plane en route from Berlin to Ankara, chided his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu for sending “weird envoys” in a bid to smooth things over.
He did not elaborate on the characterization, but said the diplomats were told Turkey’s demands that Israel must apologize for the deaths, pay compensation and lift the Gaza blockade before Turkey will renormalize ties.
Erdogan said German Chancellor Angela Merkel had urged him to restore relations with israel during the visit.
“It is impossible that our relations will be mended unless these demands are realized,” Erdoğan said he told Merkel.