Erdogan urges Muslims worldwide to protect Al-Aqsa
Those who are able to should visit Al-Aqsa; for those who cannot visit they should send aid, Turkish president says
By Emin Avundukluoglu
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged Muslims to play their role in protecting the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
Anger has spilled across the West Bank since last week when Israel shut the Al-Aqsa Mosque, venerated by Muslims and Jews -- who call the site Temple Mount -- following a deadly shootout.
The mosque was reopened after two days, with Israel installing metal detectors and cameras at its gates.
Three Palestinians were killed Friday in protests against the Israeli measures around the holy site. Three Israelis were also killed in an attack in a settlement in the West Bank.
Addressing the Justice and Development (AK) Party's parliamentary group meeting in Ankara on Tuesday, Erdogan said: "When Israeli soldiers carelessly pollute the grounds of Al-Aqsa with their combat boots by using simple issues as a pretext and then easily spill blood there, the reason [they are able to do that] is we [Muslims] have not done enough to stake our claim over Jerusalem."
Erdogan said protection of the Muslim holy site is not a just a matter about whether it is possible to do more to protect but a matter of faith.
"Those who are able to should visit Al-Aqsa. For those who cannot visit Al-Aqsa should send aid to our brothers there."
Israel's security cabinet decided late Monday to remove the metal detectors. A statement released after the meeting said 100 million Israeli shekels would be allocated for a new surveillance system using "smart checks" based on advanced technology.
Jerusalem is sacred to Muslims, Jews and Christians, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque represents the Islamic world's third-holiest site after the cities of Mecca and Medina.
The president also spoke about his recent two-day tour to the Gulf region, which included trips to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.
"Muslims do not need to fight [against each other] but show solidarity and get closer to each other. For this reason, we should try to find ways to honestly and sincerely talk about our problems," Erdogan said.
"I hope a solution to the [Gulf] crisis that caused unnecessary tension between brothers would be found soon."
He said Turkey is a unique country that "can speak and meet every part, and has deep-rooted ties" with Gulf countries. "Our country has a stunning place among the countries of the [Gulf] region."
Erdogan's Gulf tour was an important step in rebuilding trust and stability in the region.
The president tried to find solution to the ongoing crisis in which a Saudi-Arabian-led bloc has attempted to isolate Qatar through diplomatic and economic blockade, citing Doha’s support for terrorism.
Qatar denies the accusation and insists the blockade is a violation of international law.
Erdogan met Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud and told him he has big expectations from him regarding a solution to the crisis.
In his meetings, the president also said he did not discuss with Saudi Arabia or Kuwait the existence of a Turkish base in Qatar. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have demanded the base’s removal as one of its conditions to lift the blockade on Qatar.
S-400 misille system
President Erdogan said that the purchase of S-400 missile defense system from Russia would not cause any tension. "Greece which is also a NATO country has been using S-400 for years. Why did not they raise their voice on it? Why do they worry about it when Turkey is concerned?"
He said: "We have taken the necessary steps with the Russian Federation on this issue, the signatures have been put on paper and hopefully we will see S-400s in our country. We will also manage the process with joint production [of S-400s]."
Russian presidential aide Vladimir Kozhin said late June that Moscow and Ankara had agreed on the delivery of S-400 mobile systems but that the Kremlin had not approved a loan for the deal.
The S-400 system was introduced in 2007 and can carry three types of missiles capable of destroying ground and air targets, including ballistic and cruise missiles.
It can track and engage up to 300 targets simultaneously and has an altitude ceiling of 27 kilometers (17 miles).
Tension with Germany
President Erdogan mentioned the ongoing tension between Turkey and Germany over German companies investing in Turkey.
Erdogan said that there was neither any investigation nor any prosecution of German companies operating in Turkey. "This is a lie, this is false representation."
Calling out to German authorities he said: "Come in and search it. Ask your companies. If there are any investigation [on German companies], if you could find it, bring it and we will do what is necessary."
Erdogan's remarks came after German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel announced a major policy change on Turkey last week.
Gabriel said that Germany would not encourage German businesses to invest in Turkey and issued new travel warnings for its citizens wishing to visit Turkey.