Turkish President Erdoğan defends Saudi organization of Hajj
ISTANBUL - Anadolu Agency
AA PhotoTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has spoken out to defend Saudi Arabia in the wake of the Hajj tragedy that left more than 750 pilgrims dead.
"It is not right to have the approach of putting the blame on Saudi Arabia," he told reporters in Istanbul on Sept. 25.
"On the contrary, during the Hajj and Umrah I participated in, I came to observe closely the level of sensibility in the organization work conducted there.
"Therefore I cannot say 'the organization is wrong'.
"I believe that the Saudi Arabian government will take some decisions just as they did to act decisively after the construction incident."
At least 750 pilgrims, including four Turkish citizens, were killed and 800 others were injured in Sept. 25's incident near Islam's holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
The tragedy unfolded in Mina, around 5 kilometers east of Mecca, shortly after pilgrims had performed the ritual "stoning of the devil" at Jamarat.
According to Saudi figures, some 2 million Muslims from around the world are participating in this year's Hajj.
The tragedy came two weeks after 107 people were killed when a crane collapsed in Mecca's Grand Mosque, which had been packed with worshippers at the time.
In further comments after a meeting with the president of Macedonia, Erdoğan refuted claims suggesting his views on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have changed.
“These are malicious quests. My approach about Turkey’s Syrian policy is the same with my term as prime minister,” Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan was referring to comments published in Turkish media following his statements the day before.
“Either a transition process without al-Assad, or with al-Assad, is possible. But what is required is the opposition […] Nobody can foresee Syria’s future with al-Assad. It’s not possible to accept a person responsible for killing 300,000 to 350,000 people, a dictator,” Erdoğan said, after performing his Eid al-Adha prayer early on Sept. 24 in Istanbul.
On Sept. 25, the Turkish president also stressed Syrian opposition groups did not “approve an approach with al-Assad, hence the ongoing fight.”
“If al-Assad has a modicum of love for Syria, he should leave this job and go. We don’t have a problem with Syria’s domestic policies. But neither al-Assad nor the world should forget that we have a 911-kilometer-long border with Syria,” Erdoğan added.
“At every turn we are under the threat of terrorist groups there. Our patience has a limit. We are the ones who feed 2 million people [refugees],” the president noted, stressing only Qatar and Saudi Arabia had taken Ankara’s side as international efforts were going on regarding the crisis in Syria.