International community should take unified stance against Israel, Erdoğan says

SERDAR KARAGÖZ @serdarkaragoz
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaks to members of the Turkish press in London late on Tuesday.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaks to members of the Turkish press in London late on Tuesday.

President Erdoğan urged the international community to act as one in standing against Israeli aggression and its unlawful acts toward the Palestinians in the occupied territories

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said yesterday that the international community should stand in unity against Israel's aggression toward Palestinians and that a common attitude should be displayed. An important step for the international community would be to "display a joint attitude against Israel's unlawful and unfair acts," Erdoğan told reporters accompanying him during his official visit to the U.K. in London. "It is difficult, however, to say that a determined position has been taken by the international community, and even the Arab League or the Muslim world," he added.

Erdoğan said that it is rare to see a strong reaction against Israel's treatment of Palestinians, aside from Turkey, Iran and Russia. His remarks came amid Israel's disproportionate response to Palestinians protesting the U.S. Embassy in Israel's move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. During the demonstrations in the Gaza Strip, which began on Monday, Israeli forces killed 62 Palestinians and injured more than 2,000 others. The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem was opened in a ceremony on Monday, a day before the day of the 70th anniversary of Nakba, or "catastrophe," a term used by Palestinians to describe Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories following Israel's declaration of independence on May 14, 1948, which led to the forceful displacement of nearly a million Palestinians from the lands they had called home for centuries.

The decision to relocate the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was made by the U.S. President Donald Trump on Dec. 6.

"We could not remain silent on this shameful scene," the president said, adding that Turkey has taken a series of steps to address the situation. "We have declared three days of national mourning. Parliament was called to convene for a special plenary session. The Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was called to convene on Friday in an emergency summit [in Istanbul]."

He added that two mass rallies will be held to protest Israel, one in Istanbul and one in Diyarbakır.

"We have sent the Israeli ambassador to his country and in the meantime recalled our Washington ambassador for consultations. We will continue to take diplomatic steps on these issues," Erdoğan said.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry asked for Turkey's Jerusalem consul-general to leave the country on Tuesday, while summoning Turkey's ambassador to Israel to complain that Israeli ambassador was "requested by security personnel" to take of his shoes at the airport before his departure. Turkey asked Israeli Ambassador to Ankara Eitan Naeh to leave the country for some time on Tuesday. Eitan left the country yesterday. Turkey also asked yesterday for Israeli Consul General Yosef Levi Sfari to leave the country for the time being.

Erdoğan said that Turkey is following the developments at the U.N. through Ankara's permanent representative at the U.N. in New York.

He added that Kuwait, which is currently a temporary member of the United Nations Security Council, is also taking steps within the U.N. The president said that an evaluation will also be made after the Arab League's meeting.

"The issue may be carried to the U.N. General Assembly like last time," he added.

Following Trump's decision in December, Turkey took leadership in carrying the issue to the U.N. General Assembly after a draft resolution on the issue was vetoed 14-1 by the U.S. in the U.N. Security Council.

The U.N. General Assembly passed the draft resolution with 128 countries in favor, nine against and 35 abstentions on Dec. 21, 2017, asking the U.S. to withdraw its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The president said that they have taken steps to bring some of the wounded to Turkey for treatment, however, there has been obstacles created by Israeli and Egyptian authorities.

A humanitarian aid campaign will also be launched in Turkey throughout the month of Ramadan, which began yesterday, Erdoğan added.

The Jerusalem decision prompted opposition from the international community, as the previously agreed international stance was that the status of the city should be negotiated between the Israelis and the Palestinians and that a unilateral decision on the issue would harm the religious sensitivity accorded to the city by all Muslims, Christians and Jews.

Erdoğan has also conducted phone diplomacy on the issue with several regional leaders, including Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Jordan's King Abdullah II, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

On Tuesday night, Erdoğan also spoke with Saudi King Salman over the phone and discussed Israeli violence in Gaza and this Friday's OIC summit. Erdoğan also exchanged views over the phone with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pope Francis, and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on the recent developments.

The president reiterated that "Jerusalem is a red line" for Turkey and it's not possible to give up standing by the Palestinians.

"Standing by the Palestinian cause bothers them [Israelis]. In this framework, I don't see Hamas as a terrorist group. Hamas is one of the resistance movements to rescue the occupied Palestinian lands," he said.

Diplomacy crucial for Iran nuclear issue

Responding to a question highlighting the disagreements between Ankara and Washington, Erdoğan commented on relations with the U.S., saying that Turkey stands by what it thinks to be right.

"This is why we did not find U.S.'s unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran to be right. The U.S. did not sign the agreement alone," Erdoğan said, adding that other parties are also involved in the deal on Iran's nuclear activities.

He added that imposing sanctions on Iran would not be an effective way forward and that diplomacy should be used to solve the situation.

Erdoğan also said Turkey, as a NATO ally, has found no fault in purchasing S-400 missile defense systems from Russia for its defense needs. "We also have a High-Level Cooperation Council with Russia. We cannot stop buying oil, natural gas. There are five million Russian tourists coming to our country," Erdoğan said, responding to some U.S. officials criticizing the defense deal between Ankara and Moscow.

"It is Turkey's right to meet its defense needs from different sources," Erdoğan said, also adding that Ankara's NATO allies have not supported Turkey on defense-related issues.

"Our most basic expectation from the U.S. is for them to act in accordance with the spirit of alliance and strategic partnership," he added.

People's Alliance acts in spirit of unity

Erdoğan rejected the claims that there is discord within the People's Alliance, formed by his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), saying that there are attempts to damage the spirit of unity, but it will not be allowed.

"We got on the road as the People's Alliance. We will not allow anyone to put discord between us," Erdoğan said.

Turkey will go to polls for snap parliamentary and presidential elections on June 24.

Erdoğan is the candidate of the People's Alliance against rival candidates.

The president said there are attempts exerted to ensure Erdoğan gets votes in the presidential elections, but that his party is not supported.

Erdoğan said the AK Party base will vote for Erdoğan as the candidate of the alliance, but will vote for the AK Party for the parliamentary elections.

In the June 24 elections, voters can support a candidate but they can choose to support another party, as well.

He said AK Party voters will vote for their party and the MHP voters will vote for theirs.

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