ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey on Thursday denied accusations that a militant Palestinian group is using its territory to plan attacks against Israel.
The denial came following media reports that claimed that Turkey was turning a blind eye as commanders of the Hamas group were allegedly ordering attacks against Israel from Istanbul.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry rejected the report on its Twitter account.
“We firmly reject the accusation that the Turkish territory is being used for any act against Israel or any other country,” the ministry said.
The ministry added, however, that Turkey and other countries don’t consider Hamas as a terrorist group “but as a political reality which has won the elections in Gaza back in 2006.”
“Various countries, including Turkey, have contacts with Hamas at different levels,” the ministry said.
In 2011, 11 Hamas prisoners who were freed from jails in Israel arrived in Istanbul as part of a prisoner exchange deal between the Palestinians and Israel.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who touts himself as the champion of the Palestinian cause, met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyah in Istanbul on Saturday.
Once close allies, ties between Israel and Turkey have been tense since 2010, when 10 Turkish citizens were killed by Israeli forces as a Turkish-led flotilla tried to break Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip.
The two countries agreed to a U.S.-brokered reconciliation agreement in 2016, but ties broke down again last year over a U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Both countries withdrew their ambassadors.