ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Sunday that Turkey stands behind Palestinians in their efforts to oppose what he called Israeli attempts to “reduce the Islamic character” of Jerusalem.
Davutoglu was speaking to reporters in the central Turkish city of Konya, a day after meeting with exiled Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal.
Violent demonstrations led Israel in November to briefly restrict Muslim access to a holy site in Jerusalem that includes the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third most sacred place, and the ancient Hebrew Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism.
The move fueled accusations that Israel was secretly plotting to take over the site, despite Israeli denials.
“The Palestinians … have a common stance. We back this stance against the reduction or the elimination of Jerusalem’s Islamic character,” Davutoglu said.
“Turkey will not accept any impositions concerning Al-Aqsa and will do whatever needs to be done internationally to protect Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Turkey is a strong backer of the Palestinian cause. Relations between former allies Turkey and Israel broke down in 2010 after an Israeli naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla killed nine Turkish citizens. Israel said the naval commandos boarded the boats that departed from Turkey after they disobeyed instructions from the Israel Defense Forces and immediately faced violent resistance upon boarding.
Turkey is among the strongest critics of Israeli actions in Gaza, and reconciliation efforts between the two have repeatedly failed.
Mashaal, a frequent visitor to Turkey, on Saturday accompanied Davutoglu to a regional congress of Turkey’s ruling party in Konya, where he addressed delegates, expressing the hope that “Palestine” would be liberated with Turkey’s help.
Davutoglu said Sunday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would also visit Turkey next month.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.