Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Turkey and Israel must stick together in the Middle East, in a statement to journalists on his trip back from visiting Saudi Arabia.
Speaking to a group of journalists, the Turkish leader said, “Israel is in need of a country like Turkey in the region. We have to admit that we also need Israel“.
Speaking to a group of journalists aboard the presidential plane returning to Turkey from Riyadh, where he met with Saudi King Salman bin Abdülaziz al-Saud, Erdoğan said the mutual need “is a fact of the region.”
“We need to see that. If we can take steps in reciprocal sincerity, then normalization will continue,” he added.
Relations with Israel have been tense since May 31, 2010, when Israeli forces raided a Gaza-bound flotilla of mainly Turkish activists, killing 10 people aboard the Mavi Marmara, the largest of the six vessels in the flotilla.
Presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said on Dec. 28, 2015, progress was made with Israel on the issue of compensation for Mavi Marmara victims, adding that Turkey had not changed its three conditions for normalization of ties between the two countries:
“There has been progress made about the second condition, the one with compensation, but we have not reached a point where we can ink it,” Kalın told reporters at a press conference.
He said Israel has met first condition by apologizing to Turkey, and added that two more demands were still on the table: Compensation for Mavi Marmara victims and the “lift or bend” of an embargo implemented by Israel on Gaza Strip.
Erdoğan reiterated Turkey’s stance.
“On the embargo, they [Israel] said ‘goods, construction equipment can enter [Gaza] via Turkey.’ We will wait for the written text so that they do not back down,” said Erdoğan, adding that another important point for Turkey is the Israeli aggression on Al Aqsa Mosque.
Erdoğan also said sectarian differentiation in the Islamic alliance to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is “out of the question,” denying that the Islamic anti-terror military alliance announced in mid-December 2015 “has any particular sect.”
“It is out of the question that there is sectarian differentiation in the Islamic alliance, which right now includes 37 countries. The alliance is aimed at combatting terror,” he said, adding that the number of states in the alliance would increase.
“Just as there are Sunnis and Shiites in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation [OIC], it will be the same here too,” Erdoğan stated.
He said the alliance has “security, intelligence and military” aspects, as well as work aimed at preventing the “misuse of religious concepts” and maintaining solidarity to fight against Islamophobia.
Saudi Arabia had announced on Dec. 14, 2015 the establishment of an Islamic military alliance led by itself to fight terrorism, with a joint operations center based in Riyadh to coordinate and support military operations.
‘Kurdish strip’ in Syria not acceptable
In addition, the president said Ankara would “not allow a Kurdish strip” to be formed in northern Syria.
“Jerablus was one of our targets there in order to clear the region of Daesh,” said Erdoğan, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL, referring to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units’ (YPG) possible crossing to the west of the Euphrates after Syrian Kurdish and Arab rebel forces backed by a U.S.-led coalition captured part of the Tishrin Dam.
“Watching the YPG come to that place is unacceptable. We will hold a meeting. [If we allow the YPG to cross to the west of Euphrates], a Kurdish strip will be formed to the south of us and in the north of Syria. We cannot say ‘yes’ to this,” he added.