Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slammed the West on Saturday for not reacting to the critical situation in Aleppo, which he says is Syria's most important city. Speaking at the Latin American Muslim Leaders Religious Summit in Istanbul, Erdoğan said, "There is an economy, a history and culture in Aleppo. There is a population of 1 million. Those who started uproar for Kobani, where the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants and peshmerga forces are clashing, had no concern for Aleppo.
"Why is Kobani so strategic for you?" Erdoğan asked of Western nations. "It is on our border and it would be strategic for us. And there are no civilians. Turkey is already hosting 200,000 people fleeing from there. "When it comes to Muslims ... all Western values disappear. They even discriminate between terrorist groups, between the secular and non-secular. If terrorists claim to be secular, they have sympathy toward that," Erdoğan also said, blaming Western nations for not treating the Democratic Union Party (PYD) the same as ISIS.
The clashes between ISIS militants and the outlawed Syrian Kurdish PYD'S armed units in Kobani have intensified since September. The U.S. provided military weapons to PYD fighters in October despite opposition from Turkey. Meanwhile, Syria's most populous city Aleppo remains besieged, on one side by Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces and, on the other, by ISIS militants. The opposition Free Syrian Army also controls several key neighborhoods. The participants applauded Erdoğan when he said, "They prefer bringing democracy to oil-rich countries, but do not care about the ones lacking it." The First Latin American Muslim Leaders Religious Summit in Istanbul hosted 76 religious leaders from more than 40 countries.
Erdoğan also touched upon the Israeli offensive at the holy site of Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem, saying, "Al-Aqsa does not only belong to Palestinians, it is one of the two directions in the world for Muslims," the other being Mecca. Tensions have run high in East Jerusalem since late last month, as a number of Israelis forced their way into the mosque complex, drawing the ire of Muslim worshippers and official condemnation from Arab and Muslim countries. Both Jews and Muslims consider Al-Aqsa to be a holy site.