Erdoğan speaks with Iranian leader; criticism of Israel by NATO nations grows

U.S. President Joe Biden (L), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C), and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (R) are seen as they arrive to attend the second day of the NATO Summit meeting on July 12, 2023 in Vilnius, Lithuania. Photo by Turkish President Press Office/ UPI
U.S. President Joe Biden (L), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C), and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (R) are seen as they arrive to attend the second day of the NATO Summit meeting on July 12, 2023 in Vilnius, Lithuania. Photo by Turkish President Press Office/ UPI

Nov. 26 (UPI) -- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke Sunday with his Iranian counterpart, President Ebrahim Raisi, about the war in Gaza as international criticism of Israel continues to grow.

Raisi said in a statement that Hamas -- the Palestinian militia at war with Israel, which considers it to be a terrorist organization -- the "legitimate, legal government" in Gaza. The phone call was confirmed in a readout published by the office of the Turkish presidency.

During the call, Raisi emphasized to Erdoğan that the United States is "the killer of the people of Gaza" and described any future interference in the future of Gaza as "the continuation of this country's crimes against Palestinians."

The Iranian leader said after the phone call that Hamas must decide the future of Gaza, and that the United States "has no right to interfere or make any decisions for the people of Gaza, and any action they take in this regard is condemned."

He added that he hopes the joint cooperation between Iran and Turkey "will be a model" for future interactions between Islamic countries.

An International Red Cross vehicle carrying Israeli Russian hostage Ron Krivoy released by Hamas drives towards the Rafah border point with Egypt ahead of a transfer to Israel, on Sunday, November 26, 2023. The Israeli army said, that 13 released hostages in northern Gaza City were back on Israeli territory, and another four were on their way via the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. 
 Photo by Ismail Muhammad/UPI

Raisi's comments and the apparently growing friendship between Iran and Turkey could pose challenges for the United States. Turkey is a longtime and critical member of the NATO alliance while the United States is also closely allied to Israel.

"The call addressed Israel's unlawful attacks against Gaza, humanitarian aid activities for Palestinians, and steps to be taken to achieve a lasting ceasefire in the region," the Turkish statement reads.

Palestinians queue in front of a gas station to fill their kitchen cylinders, in Rafah, southern Gaza, on Sunday, November 26, 2023 after the arrival of 150 trucks of aid supplies to the Gaza Strip. Aid arrived for the first time in 49 days as part of the 4-day humanitarian pause for prisoner exchange between the Israeli army and Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza Strip. Photo by Ismail Muhammad/UPI

"President Erdoğan highlighted the importance of a joint stance by the Islamic world, Turkey and Iran in particular, against Israeli atrocities in the Palestinian territories. President Erdoğan stated that Iran and Turkey will continue to work together to make the temporary ceasefire permanent and achieve lasting peace."

But criticism of Israel is growing from other NATO members allied to the United States. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez visited the Rafah border crossing from Gaza into Egypt on Friday with Belgium Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.

Israelis hold posters and chant "Guilty" at a protest calling for the resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his residence in Jerusalem on Saturday, November 25, 2023. Demonstrators blame Netanyahu for failing to keep the people of the Gaza border communities secure from the October 7 Hamas massacre. Photo by Debbie Hill/ UPI

Together, they also met with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority -- the internationally recognized government for the state of Palestine. Sanchez said he is open to recognizing the Palestinian state, even against the wishes of the European Union. About 139 of 193 countries in the United Nations recognize Palestine as a sovereign nation while about 163 recognize Israel.

"The Government of Spain is committed to a two-state solution that ends the endless cycles of violence and allows Palestine and Israel to coexist in peace and security," Sanchez said on Twitter. "The Palestinian Authority must be reestablished in Gaza and provide security and basic services to the population."

But Sanchez' comments during his speech at the border in which he called the situation a "humanitarian catastrophe" sparked a diplomatic row with Israel, each summoning the ambassador of the other.

On Saturday, De Croo said he stood by comments he made the day prior while visiting Rafah.

And last month, the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization met with German Ambassador Deike Potzel as Turkish diplomats responded to "slander" from Israel.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen had announced he recalled diplomats from Ankara after Erdogan chastised Israel for bombing Gaza in its war against Hamas, which Erdogan defended by saying it was "fighting to protect its land and citizens."

Even Norway's Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store called Israel's response to the attack by the Hamas militia "disproportionate" last month while the French foreign ministry, a nation that has long dealt with claims of Islamophobic policies, called on Israel to better "protect the Palestinian population."

Greece has warned Israel that its war against Hamas will lead to a surge of undocumented migrants, a major issue for the nation that has seen an influx of Syrian refugees in recent years, even as Greece and Turkey have been at odds in the past over Europe's refugee crisis.

Even the NATO organization itself, which initially made a slurry of statements supporting Israel in early October, has backed off from addressing the conflict. It has published just five articles on its website since the start of November, mostly to address humanitarian aid to Gaza and reiterate its assertion that Israel has a "right to defend itself."