Turkey rejects 'buffer zone' plan for Gaza, Erdogan says

FILE PHOTO: U.N.'s COP28 climate summit in Dubai

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey rejects plans to establish a post-war buffer zone in Gaza because it would be disrespectful to Palestinians, President Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

Reuters reported last week that Israel had conveyed plans for the buffer zone to several Arab states and Turkey.

Speaking to reporters on a flight from Doha, Erdogan said Gaza's governance and future after the war would be decided by Palestinians alone.

"I consider even the debating of this (buffer-zone) plan as disrespectful to my Palestinian siblings. For us, this is not a plan that can be debated, considered, or discussed," Erdogan's office quoted him as saying.

Calling for Israel to hand back territories it occupies and end settlements in those territories, he said: "Israel must remove the terrorists - which it markets to the world as settlers - from those houses and those lands, and think about how it can build a peaceful future with Palestinians."

Ankara has sharply criticised Israel's military campaign in Gaza, supports a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and hosts some members of the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Unlike most of its NATO allies and some Arab states, it does not view Hamas as a terrorist group.

Erdogan said Israel had become "the West's spoiled child", and blamed Western support for Israel for the situation in the region.

Asked about reports that Israeli officials want to hunt down Hamas members in other countries, Erdogan said carrying out such a operation in Turkey would have "very serious" consequences.

"In the event they carry out such a mistake, they should know that they will pay the price for this very, very heavily," he said.

Erdogan said Turkey and Qatar wanted to rebuild Gaza and that Turkey was ready to act as a guarantor or host a peace conference.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Daren Butler, Jonathan Spicer and Timothy Heritage)