Middle East

Gaza's Hamas PM visits Turkish aid ship Mavi Marmara

Ismail Haniya delivers a speech in front of the Mavi Marmara in Istanbul on 2 January 2012
Image caption Ismail Haniya (pictured centre) paid tribute to the activists who died on board the Mavi Marmara

The prime minister of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip has continued his tour of Turkey with a visit to an aid ship that was stormed by Israeli troops in 2010.

Ismail Haniya paid tribute to the nine activists who were killed during the May raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara.

This is Mr Haniya's first trip abroad since Hamas came to power in Gaza in 2007. On Sunday, he met Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Relations between Turkey and Israel soured after the raid on the flotilla.

Israel refused to apologise, saying its troops acted in self-defence.

Turkey has pledged to escort future Gaza-bound aid ships, and take steps to prevent what it fears are attempts by Israel to unilaterally exploit natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean.

Peace talks

Mr Haniya said on Monday that he had made the trip to Turkey to thank the Turkish people for their support for the Palestinian cause.

He said Turkey had played a "great role" during the recent prisoner-swap deal and said they owed a "duty of loyalty" to the nine "martyrs of freedom" who died during the raid on the Mavi Marmara.

"On behalf of the martyrs of our Palestinian people and on behalf of the families of the martyrs, I salute the martyrs and the families of the liberty ship, the Marmara," he said, speaking beside the docked ship.

"And we would like to tell you that your blood is our blood, and your martyrs are our martyrs."

He also said many issues relating to the Palestinian situation were discussed during his meeting with Mr Erdogan on Sunday.

Turkey has always insisted that any peace deal must include Hamas, but has also called for the armed group to renounce violence.