Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urged Muslims to help protect Jerusalem and support the Palestinian cause. The 62-year-old leader took a tough stance against Israel at a time when Turkey is looking to improve ties between the two nations, ending nearly six years of hostilities.
“It is the common duty of all Muslims to embrace the Palestinian cause and protect Jerusalem,” Erdoğan reportedly said Tuesday at a parliamentary symposium in Istanbul.
He added that the protection of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Sunni Islam located in the Old City of Jerusalem, should not be left to children only armed with stones, a likely reference to Palestinian youths who pelt Israeli security forces with stones. The site is also the holiest one for Jews who believe it to be the location of two biblical temples.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the Six-Day War in 1967 and in 1980, annexed the city -- a move not recognized by the international community. Erdoğan said Tuesday that a “two-state solution” is required with Israel and Palestine going back to their pre-1967 borders to establish peace in the region.
“The only way for permanent peace in the Middle East is a free and independent Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem,” he reportedly said. “It is not possible to provide peace in the region without bandaging this wound in the Middle East.”
Erdoğan also condemned the controversial anti-noise legislation dubbed the “muezzin bill.” The Israeli parliament proposed the bill on Nov. 13 saying it would restrict the use of loudspeakers at mosques in the country to tackle noise. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supported the bill criticized by Muslims, Jewish and Christian communities.
The Turkish president called the bill “irrational” and “conscienceless” adding that Israel was adopting “policies of repression and discrimination against our Palestinian brothers.”
Erdoğan’s comments come at a time when Israel and Turkey are attempting to restore ties which were severed when an Israeli commando raid killed Turkish activists delivering aid to besieged Gaza.
Turkey even sent firefighting aircraft to help Israel tackle wildfires last week that forced thousands to evacuate. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin personally thanked his Turkish counterpart for his help during a phone call Monday.