Sevil Erkuş - Hürriyet Daily News / Ankara. Aug 13 () - A senior Hamas leader claimed to be residing in Turkey is not in the country, Turkish officials said on Aug. 12, putting a partial end to months of controversy.
“[Saleh] al-Arouri is not in Turkey at the moment,” sources from the Turkish Foreign Ministry told Hürriyet Daily News. The same sources, nonetheless, declined to elaborate on whether al-Arouri had ever resided in Turkey, as Israeli officials have claimed, and whether he was recently deported, as news reports have suggested.
The explanation by Turkish officials following months-long silence on the issue came only days after Israeli Channel 10 reported last week Turkey had bowed to pressure by the United States and ordered al-Arouri, who Israel has accused of organizing terrorist attacks in the West Bank, to leave the country.
Channel 10 suggested the Turkish government agreed to al-Arouri’s ouster because it was one of the prerequisites for Turkey’s entry into the Western coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The explanation by senior Foreign Ministry sources came on the same day when Khaled Mashaal, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, was scheduled to arrive in Turkey for a meeting with President Tayyip Erdoğan, amid the flurry of regional contacts made by Hamas, which have intensified since the recent nuclear deal between Iran and Western powers.
Mashaal was scheduled to meet Erdoğan in the early evening of Aug. 12. No official statement has been released regarding the content of the meeting.
Mashaal was also set to meet incumbent Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu later in the evening. Davutoğlu will host the Hamas leader over a dinner at his official residence, the Prime Ministry’s press office announced.
Turkish Foreign Ministry sources refused to link Mashaal’s visit with the al-Arouri issue.