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Ihsanoglu: Turkey should not take sides in Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Turkey's opposition presidential candidate calls on Turkey to be impartial towards conflicts in the Middle East
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu joint candidate of Turkey's opposition parties (AA)

The joint presidential candidate of Turkey’s two main opposition parties, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu declared that “Turkey should be a negotiator” and “should not take sides in the conflicts of the Middle East, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”, during his first television interview aired on CNNTurk on 3 July.

The former head of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) proclaimed that Turkey is one of the first countries to recognise Israel and that maintaining those relations has allowed the country to assume the role of a negotiator in the region.

“We should be the ones putting out fires [in the Middle East]. We shouldn't become a part of these clashes [in the region],” the former OIC head said. 

Ihsanoglu, who was nominated by the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), went on to say that Turkey should determine its stance toward developments in the region by looking after its national interests.

He however condemned via twitter “the brutal assaults against the innocent civilians of Gaza” and called for “permanent peace in the Middle East,” on 9 July.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu described Ihsanoglu’s statements as “unfortunate” and declared during a televised interview on 8 July that the Palestinian people should not be left without support.

Referring to Ihsanoglu’s statements, Davuoglu said: “If you say ‘I will not take sides' over a territory which is under occupation and is a matter of honour regarding Islam and our historical heritage, it means that you are taking sides with the occupation.”

“From this perspective - and especially from a former OIC secretary general ... this is an unfortunate statement. We cannot stand idly by when the issue is about Palestine. We cannot remain indifferent to new development,” he added.

With the Turkish public having historically shown strong support for Palestinians, the presidential candidate’s remarks caused an uproar on social media. 


Syrian refugees

As part of his presidential campaign, the academic met with his supporters on 8 July at the famous Tuesday Pazar in Istanbul’s Kadikoy district.

During his tour, Ihsanoglu sympathised with a resident who complained to him about Syrian refugees in her neighbourhood.

“Turkey shouldn't have opened the door. Now where are those who opened the door and announced ‘Let everyone come in'? We have started [this presidential campaign] to oppose this situation…we assert that these policies are wrong,” Cihan News Agency reported Ihsanoglu as saying.