Istanbul (Reuters) – Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan said that the chance for peace in Gaza after the humanitarian pause was lost for now due to what he described as Israel’s uncompromising approach, broadcaster NTV reported on Saturday.
“We have always emphasized that we are in favor of a permanent ceasefire rather than a humanitarian break…There was an opportunity for peace here, and unfortunately, we have lost this opportunity for now due to Israel’s uncompromising approach,” Erdogan was quoted as saying by NTV and other Turkish media.
The truce that started on Nov. 24 had been extended twice. But after seven days during which women, children and foreign hostages were freed as well as a number of Palestinian prisoners, mediators failed to find a formula to release more.
Since then Israeli air strikes and artillery bombardments have hit southern Gaza, extending the nearly two-month-old war in which thousands of people have died.
The war was triggered by a cross-border killing and kidnapping spree by Gaza’s governing Islamist faction Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction.
Speaking to reporters on his way back from the United Arab Emirates, Erdogan said that he is not losing hope for a lasting peace in the conflict adding that Hamas cannot be excluded from its potential solution, according to NTV.
“We need to focus on the two-state solution…The exclusion of Hamas or destruction of Hamas is not a realistic scenario,” Erdogan said during the interview, adding that he will not define Hamas as a terrorist organisation.
In a social media post addressed to Erdogan, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said he was “welcome to host in your country Hamas terrorists who aren’t eliminated and flee from Gaza”.
“We will free Gaza from Hamas, for the sake of Israel’s security and to create a better future for the residents of the region,” Cohen added.
Separately, sources told Reuters that Israel has informed several Arab states that it wants to carve out a buffer zone on the Palestinian side of Gaza’s border to prevent future attacks as part of proposals for the enclave after war ends.
Erdogan also said a contact group formed by the OIC and Arab League would visit the United States to discuss possible resolution of conflict in Gaza after meeting with authorities in London, Paris, Barcelona and the United Nations.