Erdogan calls on Muslim world to back Palestinians in Gaza
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan on Friday called on the Muslim world to back Palestinians against what he said was Israel’s cruelty in Gaza, and castigated both the United States and the United Nations over the deaths of dozens of protesters.
The Turkish president has been a vocal critic of Washington’s decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem — and of the violence that followed the embassy’s opening. Turkey declared three days of mourning after Israeli security forces killed dozens of Palestinian protesters on Monday.
Addressing thousands of supporters waving Turkish and Palestinian flags in Istanbul’s Yenikapi neighborhood, Erdogan called for Muslim solidarity and said the United Nations had lost legitimacy for failing to stand up against Washington.
“If the Muslim world stands against cruelty in Gaza together, Israel’s recklessness will not last,” he said.
“The United Nations, which has failed to take effective steps against the United States, has taken another blow to its already worn-out legitimacy.”
Erdogan has called an emergency summit of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). That meeting is due to start later on Friday in Istanbul.
A populist with roots in political Islam, Erdogan has recently described the actions of the Israeli forces as a “genocide” and called Israel a “terrorist state”.
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah told the rally that the world must act. “We call on the international community to intervene immediately to protect our people and to make Israel accountable for its action,” he said.
The violence in Gaza has sparked a diplomatic row between Turkey and Israel, with both countries expelling each other’s senior diplomats this week.
The plight of Palestinians resonates with many Turks, particularly the nationalist and religious voters who form the base of support for Erdogan, running for re-election next month.
Despite the rhetoric, Israel was the 10th-largest market for Turkish exports in 2017, buying some $3.4 billion of goods, according to IMF statistics.
“We have excellent economic ties with Turkey. And these relations are very important for both sides,” Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon told Israel Radio on Friday when asked if Israel should break ties with Turkey.
US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the embassy reversed decades of US policy, upsetting the Arab world and Western allies.
Turkey has said that other countries should be prevented from following the United States and moving their embassies to Jerusalem. Guatemala this week became the second country to move its embassy to the holy city, and Paraguay said it would follow suit this month.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Iranian television in Istanbul that “Israel’s recent crimes in Palestine and the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem need serious coordination between Islamic countries and the international community”.
UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said Israel had systematically deprived Palestinians of their human rights, with 1.9 million people in Gaza “caged in a toxic slum from birth to death”.