- Erdogan has long craved a role as a Muslim leader within the entire Islamic world, rarely holding back with tirades against Israel even though Ankara has diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.
- Tensions with Israel and hosting such a meeting also does Erdogan no harm with his core supporters as Turkey heads to presidential and parliamentary polls on June 24.
ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is hosting Muslim leaders for an Istanbul summit to condemn Israel over the killing of Gaza protesters, seeking to bridge divisions with the Islamic world and issue a strong message.
Erdogan has reacted with unbridled fury to the killing by Israeli forces on Monday of 60 Palestinians on the Gaza border, accusing Israel of “genocide” and being run as an “apartheid state.”
His calling for a mass demonstration in Istanbul has hundreds of thousands on the streets ahead of the summit’s start at 1600 GMT.
Erdogan already staged an extraordinary meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in December last year to denounce US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“We must give the toughest response … to the crime against humanity committed by Israel,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a meeting of OIC foreign ministers ahead of the summit.
A draft communique prepared for the summit calls for “international protection for the Palestinian people” and condemns Israel’s “criminal” actions against “unarmed civilians.”
The text also accuses the US administration of “encouraging the crimes of Israel” and condemns the move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested holy city of Jerusalem, according to participants in the summit.
Cavusoglu also said some OIC member states’ failure to show enough support for the Palestinian cause “upsets us.”
Speaking in Geneva, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein slammed Israel’s reaction to the Gaza protests as “wholly disproportionate,” backing calls for an international investigation.
Israel accused Gaza’s rulers Hamas of using the protests to carry out attacks and exploiting the Palestinian population.
After declaring his intention to hold the event only on Monday, Erdogan has managed to build up an impressive guest list at short notice.
Jordanian King Abdullah II will be present although the Palestinians will be represented by prime minister Rami Hamdallah and not president Mahmud Abbas who this week had surgery on his ear.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Saudi counterpart Adel Al-Jubeir will also be at the Istanbul summit.
Erdogan has long craved a role as a Muslim leader within the entire Islamic world, rarely holding back with tirades against Israel even though Ankara has diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.
Tensions with Israel and hosting such a meeting also does Erdogan no harm with his core supporters as Turkey heads to presidential and parliamentary polls on June 24.
In a diplomatic crisis threatening a 2016 deal that allowed the resumption of full ties, Turkey has ordered the Israeli ambassador to leave for an unspecified period of time over the killings.
The rally is taking place at Yenikapi, an area favored by Erdogan for election rallies under the slogan “curse the oppression.”