Turkey’s Erdoğan says Saudi executions ‘internal legal matter’
AA photoTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Jan. 6 refused to condemn Saudi Arabia for its execution of 47 convicts, including a prominent Shiite cleric, saying it was an “internal legal matter” of the kingdom.
“The executions in Saudi Arabia are an internal legal matter. Whether you approve of the decision or not is a separate issue,” Erdoğan said in a televised speech, his first reaction to the controversy which has raised tensions between Saudi Arabia and its regional rival Iran.
The Turkish president last month visited Riyadh for talks with King Salman and the political elite, in a new sign of Ankara’s warm ties with the kingdom.
Turkey and Saudi Arabia, both overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim powers, share the same vision over the conflict in Syria where they believe only the ousting of President Bashar al-Assad can bring an end to almost five years of civil war.
Meanwhile, tensions have increased between Turkey and mainly Shiite Iran, which along with Russia is the key remaining ally of Assad.
The crisis began at the weekend when Saudi Arabia executed prominent Shiite cleric and activist Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr as well as 46 other convicts, prompting a furious reaction from Tehran.
Iranian protesters then ransacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Riyadh, Bahrain and Sudan severed relations with Tehran while Kuwait recalled its ambassador.
Erdoğan dismissed suggestions that the executions were aimed at provoking tensions with Shiite Muslims and also said the attack on the Saudi mission was “unacceptable”.
“Only three [of those executed] were Shiites,” he added, questioning “why the world did not react” to the condemnation of “thousands of people to death” following the ousting in Egypt of former president Mohamed Morsi, an ally of Ankara.
Erdoğan also voiced his conviction that a “master mind” is responsible for ongoing sectarian conflict in the Muslim world.
“As a matter of fact, a master mind is managing this. We should know this. The issue is: ‘Let’s have a sectarian conflict in the Islamic world and shatter the Islamic world within itself.’” he said.
“We know that the most important reason behind the images experienced in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon is the sedition of sect,” he added.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Jan. 4 urged Iran and Saudi Arabia to calm tensions, saying the hostility between the two key Muslim powers would only further escalate problems in an explosive region.
Erdoğan’s comments also contrasted with those on Jan. 4 by Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş, who is also the government’s spokesman, that “death penalties, especially ones that are politically-motivated, are of no help to making peace in the region.”
Turkey formally abolished the death penalty in 2004 as part of its bid to join the EU.