Turkish president heads to Italy to discuss Jerusalem with pope

Pope Francis is welcomed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he arrives for a meeting at the presidential palace in Ankara. (File Photo: AFP)
Updated 04 February 2018
0

Turkish president heads to Italy to discuss Jerusalem with pope

VATICAN CITY: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan flew to Italy on Sunday ahead of talks with Pope Francis that are expected to centre on Jerusalem after U.S. President Donald Trump recognised the holy city as the capital of Israel.
Jerusalem is home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions, and Trump's recent announcement that he would move the U.S. embassy to the city alarmed many allies, who say the decision could doom Middle East peace efforts.
Erdogan previously clashed with the pope when Francis, in 2015, became the first head of the Roman Catholic Church to publicly call the 1915 killing of as many as 1.5 million Armenians "genocide" -- something Turkey has always denied.
But the two men have found common ground over Jerusalem, speaking by phone after Trump made his announcement in December and agreeing that any change to the city's status should be avoided.
Before leaving Turkey, Erdogan said the United States had isolated itself over Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want to share with the Israelis as their future capital.
"In the process ahead, come on and accept Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. This is the point that is to be reached. We are now working for this," he told reporters in Istanbul.
Erdogan is due to see the pope on Monday in what will be the first visit to the Vatican by a Turkish president in 59 years.
The two men are also expected to discuss the situation in Syria and Iraq as well as humanitarian aid and refugees.
Turkey last month sent troops into neighbouring Syria to attack Kurdish YPG fighters near its southern border. Turkey sees the militia as a terrorist group and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), and has shrugged off criticism at home and abroad over the operation.
Demonstrations are expected in Rome to mark Erdogan's visit and some 3,500 police and security forces will be on duty. In an interview with La Stampa newspaper, Erdogan dismissed the likely protests.
"I don’t speak to people who support terrorism. I only speak to those who fight it," he was quoted as saying.
The Turkish leader is also due to meet Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni on Monday, as well as local business leaders.
"You are only 11th when it comes to the number of foreign companies active in Turkey, we need to improve that," he told La Stampa.


Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

A firefighting aircraft flies over a forest near Kibbutz Harel, which was damaged by wildfires during a record heatwave, in Israel May 24, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 May 2019
0

Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

  • Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes on Thursday as fires raged
  • The fires were fueled by high temperatures and dry condition

JERUSALEM: Egypt and four European countries sent aircraft to help Israel battle wildfires that have forced the evacuation of some small towns, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday, as a record heatwave looked set to worsen conditions.
At an emergency briefing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had appealed for international help to combat the fires, and that firefighting planes were coming in from Greece, Croatia, Italy and Cyprus.
Egypt, on the orders of President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi, had also sent two helicopters to assist Israel, Netanyahu told reporters.
The Palestinian Authority and Russia had also offered help, Netanyahu said.
Israel braced for wildfires on Friday amid a major heat wave that shows no signs of abating.
Israel “really appreciates” the help, Netanyahu said, singling out El-Sisi for sending aid.
“I am deeply thankful for the readiness of neighbors to help us in a time of crisis, just as we help them,” Netanyahu said.
Israel’s Fire and Rescue Service said blazes in a key corridor between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were mostly under control but difficult weather remained a conflagration risk.
“As of this moment, this (containment) is being done in the best possible way, but the challenge is yet ahead of us given the weather conditions, the winds and the extreme heat,” Netanyahu said.
Some 3,500 residents of small towns in the path of the fires were evacuated on Thursday, officials said. Dozens of homes have burned down.

Evacuations
Thousands of people were evacuated from towns and dozens of homes were burned on Thursday as fires raged, fueled by high temperatures and dry conditions. Over 500 acres of woodland have burned, said Nitai Zecharya, an Israeli official from the Jewish National Fund, known for planting forests in the country.
Zecharya said that while firefighters had brought most of the blaze under control, officials remained “very stressed” about strong winds fanning flames and “spreading fires to other fronts.”
The cause of the fires remains unclear, but they erupted following the Jewish festival of Lag Ba’Omer, which observers mark with bonfires.
A sweltering heat wave is pushing temperatures in parts of the country up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, or 43 Celsius.