Erdogan Urges Muslims to 'Embrace Palestinian Cause and Protect Jerusalem'

Turkey's president says safeguarding the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem should not be left to children armed with stones.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a parliamentary symposium on Jerusalem in Istanbul, Turkey, November 29, 2016.
Murat Cetinmuhurdar, AP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Muslims on Tuesday to defend the Palestinian cause, striking a tough stance on Israel despite improved ties between the two nations.

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Speaking at a parliamentary symposium on Jerusalem in Istanbul, Erdogan said "it is the common duty of all Muslims to embrace the Palestinian cause and protect Jerusalem," adding that safeguarding the Al-Aqsa Mosque should not be left to children armed with nothing but stones. 

The comment comes a day after European diplomats told Haaretz that Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman urged European ministers to adopt a tougher policy toward Turkey, saying "you need to learn from Putin how to deal with Erdogan."

The diplomats said Lieberman spoke at length about the purges in Turkey since a failed coup attempt in July; the declaration of a state of emergency, which gave Erdogan legislative powers; and Erdogan’s efforts to rein in both traditional and social media, including by arresting journalists and editors.

“Why do you keep quiet about this?” they quoted him as saying. “You have many ways to pressure Erdogan.”

On Sunday, Erdogan criticized Israel's so-called "Muezzin Law," banning the use of loudspeakers to call Muslims for prayer during late night and early morning hours.

In a phone call with President Reuven Rivlin, Erdogan asked that Israeli legislation concerning Muslim prayer be "considered with sensitivity, as appropriate for such matters of freedom of expression and freedom of religion."

His comments come as Israel and Turkey prepare to exchange ambassadors as part of a reconciliation deal.