Turkey’s Erdogan says Israel damaging Jerusalem’s “Islamic character”
:: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel on Wednesday of inflicting damage on Jerusalem’s “Islamic character”, in comments likely to further inflame regional tensions in a dispute over the Al-Aqsa mosque.
The dispute over security at the mosque compound – where Israel installed metal detectors at entry points after two police guards were shot dead this month – has touched off the bloodiest clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in years.
Hoping to calm days of unrest, Israel removed the metal detectors from the entrances to the compound and is expected to install advanced CCTV cameras instead, but Palestinians have said the modified measures are still unacceptable.
“Israel is harming Jerusalem’s Islamic character,” said Erdogan, whose roots are in political Islam, at an education conference in Ankara. “Nobody should expect us to remain silent against the double standards in Jerusalem.”
Israel’s foreign ministry responded swiftly with a stern statement denouncing the Turkish government and accusing it of behaving as though the Ottoman Empire still existed.
“It’s absurd that the Turkish government, which occupies Northern Cyprus, brutally represses the Kurdish minority and jails journalists, lectures Israel, the only true democracy in the region,” spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said.
Turkey has troops stationed in Northern Cyprus, is battling armed Kurdish separatists in its southeast region and has jailed large numbers of journalists, academics and others it suspects of having supported an abortive military coup last year.
The Al-Aqsa dispute, like many in the Holy Land, is about much more than security devices, taking in issues of sovereignty, religious freedom, occupation and Palestinian nationalism.