Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday, January 19, urged the West to respect the democratic Palestinian elections that brought Hamas to power.
"If we are to move towards democracy in that region then we should respect the decision of the people who went to the ballot box," Erdogan said in a speech at a European Policy Center conference, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Erdogan said that Hamas had clearly won parliamentary elections in the Palestinian territories in 2007.
Hamas trounced Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s once-dominant Fatah in the 2007 polls and formed its own government before Fatah later joined a Hamas-led national unity government.
But the West, led by the US, refused any contact with the Hamas-led government.
The US and Israel also led an international campaign to impose a crippling siege on the densely-populated Gaza Strip, home to nearly 1.6 million.
Erdogan said his ruling Justice and Development Party had faced similar international reprobation when it came to power.
"There were many things that were said against my people, but democracy is not confined to the definition of the elites," he said.
"Within a democracy everyone votes, is equal. If one can respect the result, then one is a democrat."
The Turkish leaders asked the West to give Hamas a chance to demonstrate her governance.
"We should not be squeezing them into the corner," he stressed.
"If they are not successful they will lose the next time."
Erdogan renewed his criticism of Israel for showing disrespect to his country over its deadly Gaza offensive.
"I have to say we have been saddened by what went on," he said.
"Israel did not really respect us in that process."
The Turkish premier said that he had six hours of talks with his Israeli counterpart Ehud Olmert at the end of December, during which they had discussed Turkey-mediated indirect Israeli-Syrian talks and other issues.
"But no mention was ever made during these discussions with Mr. Olmert about Gaza, and three or four days later he should have contacted me," Erdogan said.
"Not only did he not contact me, but we then discovered, December 27, that Israel had started to bomb Gaza," he added.
"This lack of respect is something that Israel has to remedy."
Israeli troops killed more than 1,300 people, more than half of them civilians, and wounded 5,300 in its 22-day Gaza offensive.
"Children were killed. Defenseless people were killed. Is this what you have accomplished?"
(IslamOnline.net and Agencies)