Erdogan on Trump’s ‘unacceptable’ recognition: Jerusalem is ‘our red line’

Turkish president also slams Syrian leader Assad as ‘terrorist’ who ‘has killed close to a million of his citizens’

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the 42nd Mukhtars Meeting at the Presidential Complex in Ankara on December 20, 2017. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP)
President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the 42nd Mukhtars Meeting at the Presidential Complex in Ankara on December 20, 2017. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday said his country would not tolerate the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“Jerusalem is our red line. Any steps against Jerusalem’s historic status and holiness are unacceptable,” Erdogan said, adding that his country will work toward international recognition of the Palestinian state and seek the support of the European Union.

In a move that delighted much of Israel’s leadership but ignited protests across the Muslim world, US President Donald Trump announced on December 6 that the US recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and planned to move its embassy there from Tel Aviv.

Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

Erdogan spoke during a visit to Tunisia at the end of a four-day Africa trip focusing on economic issues.

At a joint news conference with Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, Erdogan called Assad a “terrorist who engaged in state terrorism” and should not be part of Syria’s post-conflict future.

“How can we embrace a future with a Syrian leader who has killed close to a million of his citizens?” said the Turkish leader, whose country has seen a flood of refugees from neighboring Syria during the fighting.

Turkey, Russia and Iran have taken the lead in Syria peace efforts over the past year. Those efforts remain at an impasse, however, with the opposition insisting that Assad have no role during a political transition and the government refusing to even consider such a demand.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) shakes hands with his Tunisian counterpart Beji Caid Essebsi on December 27, 2017 following a press conference at Carthage palace near Tunis. ( FETHI BELAID / AFP)

Turkey backs the opposition, while Russia and Iran are close allies of Assad and their support has tipped the nearly seven-year war in his favor.

The Turkish leader said, “There is no calm in Syria, and with Assad there can never be peace there.”

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim was paying a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, where he met Wednesday with King Salman.

The two countries recently have been at odds over regional issues.

Following his accession to power in 2015, King Salman sought to improve relations with Turkey to form a so-called Sunni axis against rival Shiite-led Iran. However, the kingdom’s move in June to lead a four-nation boycott of Qatar and cut off ties with the Gulf state led to new tensions with Turkey, which has sided with Qatar.

The Turkish prime minister’s office said Yildirim and King Salman exchanged views on “regional challenges and problems.” They also emphasized the importance of Jerusalem’s status and the need for the Islamic world to act in unity to protect the rights of Palestinian “brothers.”

Yildirim was also expected to meet Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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