Turkey’s President Erdogan meets Palestinian PM Abbas and re-asserts commitment to Al Aqsa status quo

7/26/2023 10:43 PM

Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, travelled Tuesday 25th July to Ankara, Turkey, to meet with Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the wake of what has been described as heightened Israeli violations of the rights of Palestinians.

The meeting came in the aftermath of violent confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinian parishioners in April earlier this year during Ramadan at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, during which 50 people were injured and more than 400 arrested and more recently the much criticised incursions of Israeli forces into Jenin, in the West Bank, on 3rd July which cost the lives of 12 Palestinians.

Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, one of the holiest places in Islam

On the day of the Prime Minister, Abbas’s visit, news reports cited the deaths of yet more Palestinians in Nablus as the latest of several repeated incursions took place in Palestinian cities in the West Bank. The incursions and resultant deaths prompted the Turkish Foreign Ministry to issue statements condemning ‘Israeli aggression’. A statement from the Foreign Ministry said:

‘We strongly condemn the incursion carried out by the Israeli forces today…We are deeply concerned that the current tension in the region could trigger a new spiral of violence following these attacks, and we reiterate our call on the Israeli authorities to act with common sense and put an end to such actions’

High on the agenda of the discussions between Abbas and Erdogan, were the continued attempts by the Israeli government to alter the status quo of the Al Aqsa Mosque. Back in January 2023, Itamar Ben-Givr, Israel’s National Security Minister and leader of the far-right movement in Israel, breached accepted protocols and visited the grounds of the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, describing it publicly as the site of the (Jewish) Temple Mount. The move was widely regarded as a deliberate attempt to incite and inflame tensions.

Al Aqsa compound showing Israeli excavation attempts on left of picture

Israeli settlers frequently ignore prayer restrictions at the Al Aqsa Mosque

United Nations protocols dictate that the site of Al Aqsa is out of bounds for those of Jewish faith to make prayer there, although increasingly since the rise of the far right, settlers have regularly ignored the rules and prayed at the site while enjoying protection and security from Israeli armed forces.  Regular Settler demonstrations have called for the Mosque to be demolished and replaced by a third Jewish temple.  

President Erdogan pledges unequivocal support for the Palestinian cause

At the meeting with the Palestinian Prime Minister, Abbas on Tuesday, President Erdogan was unequivocal in his support for the Palestinian cause as he pledged the full backing of his government to resist any attempt to alter the historical status quo mandated by the UN, of the Al Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem. At a press conference held Tuesday, he said:

‘As Turkiye, we continue to support the Palestinian cause in the strongest way possible. We are deeply concerned about the violence of illegal settlers… We cannot tolerate any acts attempting to change the historical status quo of holy places, particularly the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The unity and reconciliation of the Palestinians are key elements in this process… the establishment of an independent Palestinian state is a condition for the peace and stability of our entire region’

Visit to Turkey seen as an attempt for Abbas to shore up support at home

Many political pundits regard the timing of the Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas’s visit as linked to his flagging popularity and support at home – particularly in the West Bank. They see it as an attempt to shore up support after recent public humiliations such as his visit to Jenin after the Israeli incursion, at which time residents openly refused to engage with him. Earlier, several Palestinian Authority (PA) Officials had been barred and physically removed from taking part in the funerals of those who were killed during the incursion. Many residents see the PA as complicit in the raids on their homes by Israeli forces and Abbas is weary that he may lose control of the region to an increasingly organised and coordinated resistance militia across the region.