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‘Jerusalem is our city,’ Turkey’s Erdogan declares

Addressing lawmakers in Ankara, Turkish president says the Palestinian people have lived in the capital ‘for thousands of years’

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan inspects a military honor guard at the parliament, in Ankara, Turkey, October 1, 2020 (Turkish Presidency via AP. Pool)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan inspects a military honor guard at the parliament, in Ankara, Turkey, October 1, 2020 (Turkish Presidency via AP. Pool)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday implied that Jerusalem belongs to Turkey, referring to the Ottoman Empire’s control over the city for much of the modern era.

“In this city that we had to leave in tears during the First World War, it is still possible to come across traces of the Ottoman resistance. So Jerusalem is our city, a city from us,” he told Turkish lawmakers during a major policy speech in Ankara. “Our first qibla [direction of prayer in Islam] al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem are the symbolic mosques of our faith. In addition, this city is home to the holy places of Christianity and Judaism.”

The Ottoman Empire ruled over Jerusalem from 1516 to 1917. Modern Turkey, its successor state, has long stressed its enduring connection to the holy city, regularly condemning Israel’s alleged efforts to “judaize” it and the US administration’s December 2017 recognition of it as Israel’s capital.

Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel since the country’s founding, and the Jewish people have thousands of years of history in the city, backed up by extensive archaeological finds.

During a lengthy speech at the opening of the Turkish parliament’s new legislative session, Erdoğan spent several minutes lamenting the fate of Jerusalem and the Palestinians’ plight.

“Another crisis that our country and our nation carefully follow is the oppression of Israel against the Palestinians and the indifferent practices that disregard the privacy of Jerusalem,” he said toward the end of his address.

“The issue of Jerusalem is not an ordinary geopolitical problem for us. First of all, the current physical appearance of the Old City, which is the heart of Jerusalem, was built by Suleiman the Magnificent, with its walls, bazaar, and many buildings. Our ancestors showed their respect for centuries by keeping this city in high esteem.”

The Palestinian people have been living in Jerusalem “for thousands of years,” but they were occupied and had their rights violated, the Turkish leader went on.

Turkey’s President Erdogan greets legislators at the parliament, in Ankara, Turkey, Oct. 1, 2020. (Turkish Presidency via AP. Pool)

He went on to vow to “pay close attention” to the Palestinian issue.

“We consider it an honor on behalf of our country and nation to express the rights of the oppressed Palestinian people on every platform, with whom we have lived for centuries,” he said. “With this understanding, we will follow both the Palestinian cause, which is the bleeding wound of the global conscience, and the Jerusalem case to the end.”

The Israeli Foreign Ministry declined to comment on Erdoğan’s speech.

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