ANKARA () – Turkey is in talks with the Palestinian militant group Hamas to secure the release of hostages it seized in Israel and took to Gaza, but there “is nothing concrete” for now, Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan was cited as saying on Wednesday.
Fidan said on Tuesday that Ankara was discussing the release of foreigners, civilians, and children held by Hamas, and added “many countries” had asked for Turkey’s help in facilitating the release of their citizens.
“Talks, work on the prisoner swap continue. There are talks and meetings held through intelligence units, but, in the heat of the first days, it was not possible to create a framework for this,” Fidan told representatives from Turkish media this week, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.
In 2011, Israel swapped hundreds of Palestinian prisoners to win the release of one Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who was held for five years. The exchange was criticised at the time by some Israelis as too lopsided.
Officials say Hamas has nearly 200 hostages in Gaza.
Fidan added that other countries, namely Qatar, were also engaged in talks with Hamas leaders, who are currently in Qatar.
“We also speak to our friends, counterparts there from time to time. There is nothing concrete at the moment,” he was quoted as saying. “The Americans, Germans (conveyed requests) regarding their own citizens. There were those who asked for our help from the first day in releasing their citizens.”
Turkey has backed Palestinians in the past, while supporting a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict with Israel. It has offered to mediate in the conflict and sent humanitarian aid to Gaza, which is stuck in Egypt as borders remained closed.
Ankara has also been working to mend long-strained ties with Israel. Unlike the United States and European Union, Turkey does not view Hamas as a terrorist group and hosts its members.
Ankara, which initially condemned civilian deaths and called for restraint, has toughened its rhetoric against Israel, saying Israel’s response to Hamas in Gaza amounted to a “massacre’, and a violation of human rights and international law.
It sharply escalated its criticism after a blast on Tuesday that killed hundreds of Palestinians at a Gaza hospital, which Palestinians blamed on an Israeli air strike. Israel said the blast was caused by Palestinian militants.