Blinken to meet Turkey’s Erdogan for talks expected to focus on Gaza war

ISTANBUL — Washington’s top diplomat will discuss the Gaza war with Turkey’s mercurial leader on Saturday before flying to Crete to address Greek worries about the looming sale of US fighter jets to Ankara.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Istanbul late Friday for the first leg of a trip that includes visits to Israel and West Bank, along with five Arab states.

Blinken’s fourth crisis tour since the start of the Israel-Hamas war three months ago comes with fears mounting that the conflict will engulf swathes of the Middle East.

Istanbul served as a base for Hamas political leaders until the terror group carried out a devastating attack in southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people and taking some 240 hostages. In response, Israel launched a war aimed at toppling the Gaza-ruling terror group and returning the hostages. Hamas health authorities say 22,600 Gazans have been killed in the Israeli offensive, a figure that doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants and which cannot be verified independently.

Turkey asked the Hamas chiefs to leave after some were captured on video celebrating the deadliest attack in Israel’s history.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has since turned into one of the Muslim world’s harshest critics of the scale of death and destruction happening in Gaza — and of Washington’s support for Israel.

He has also rebuffed US pressure to cut off the suspected flow of funding through Turkey to Hamas and defended the terror group as legitimately elected “liberators” fighting for their land.

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