Erdogan came across as a 'committed Muslim leader,' says Saudi journalist who interviewed him

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Ankara on Friday. (AN photo)
Updated 04 October 2016
0

Erdogan came across as a 'committed Muslim leader,' says Saudi journalist who interviewed him

JEDDAH: “Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came across as a committed Islamic-oriented leader who is deeply concerned about the Muslim Ummah.”
That was the opinion of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the end of his special interview with the Turkish leader on Friday.
The interview was aired on the Rotana Khalejia TV channel on Sunday night and has since then become a big talking point on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets.
Sharing with Arab News the inside story of the interview itself and his impressions of Erdogan, Khashoggi said he was very impressed with most of his answers.
“From his language and from his comments, it is very clear that Erdogan thinks that the Muslim Ummah — he used that term — is under attack,” said Khashoggi.
According to Khashoggi, who has interviewed many world leaders in his long journalistic career, this conviction and the total concern for the Muslim Ummah is found only among deep-rooted Islamic-oriented Muslim leaders.
“We get a reflection of this sentiment when Saudi leaders speak,” said Khashoggi. “We noticed this in Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad and in the Pakistani leader, the late Zia-ul-Haq; they were very conscious of, and concerned about, the Ummah.”
Khashoggi said Erdogan had a very good grasp of the threats facing the Muslim world.
“It is in this context that Erdogan sees the strategic value of the Saudi-Turkish relationship,” he said. “Erdogan is very keen on, and committed to, strengthening Saudi-Turkish ties.”
One of the most significant aspects of the interview, according to Khashoggi, was Erdogan’s exceptional answer to the question about the status of the Iraqi city of Mosul.
“Erdogan always speaks against sectarianism and he is very cautious and diplomatic about making any controversial statement about Iran, but when I asked him about Mosul, he revealed his real self,” said Khashoggi.
And what was that real self?
“That Erdogan is a staunch Sunni leader who rejects Iranian influence and Iranian presence in northern Iraq,” said Khashoggi.
“This is what he said, ‘The people of Mosul are Sunni Arabs, Sunni Turkmen and Sunni Kurds and therefore, Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi (the notorious Shiite militia) should not be allowed into Mosul; Turkey and Saudi Arabia will not accept them and they will work against such a scenario.’”
“I liked that about him,” said Khashoggi. “His answer about Mosul showed where he truly stands on critical Muslim issues, and that, to me, is very reassuring.”
Khashoggi also liked the part of the interview where Erdogan reacted positively to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif’s statement that Saudi Arabia and Turkey were under attack and that they needed each other.
“He said, ‘Yes, we are. Saudi Arabia and Turkey are under attack,’ and then he went on talking about the damaging consequences of JASTA and how Turkey and Saudi Arabia must work together,” said Khashoggi.
Erdogan expressed complete solidarity with the Saudi point of view, said Khashoggi. “Not only that, he went further and instructed his foreign minister and justice minister to work with the Saudis in order to tackle this issue.”
During the interview, Erdogan reiterated that Bashar Assad must go and he described the Syrian leader as a criminal. “He expressed a lot of bitterness at what is happening in Aleppo. He said, “I am talking to Putin, I am talking to Obama, to European leaders, but not much is happening and the massacres are still taking place.”
The interview took place at the new presidential palace in Ankara. It was supposed to happen at 5 p.m. but actually occurred at around 9 p.m. “Erdogan was frankly tired,” he said. “Which is understandable for a leader who started working that day at 10 in the morning and finished at 8 in the evening.”
Khashoggi said it had been a long day for the Turkish president. “He hosted the crown prince at lunch that day and then we were told by the friendly presidential staff that the prime minister had arrived at the palace followed by the justice minister. One thing and another kept the president busy through the time for our appointment.”
Khashoggi does not know the number of people who listened to the interview, “but judging from the massive response on Twitter and social media, it is fair to state that Khalejia TV recorded one of its highest number of viewers on Sunday night.”
“The positive reaction that I saw on Twitter and social media tells us that the Saudi people wanted to hear something like this from Erdogan,” he said. “However, it is disappointing to note that some Saudis and Arabs, for their own particular reasons, always try to feed negativity about Turkey and try to damage the Saudi-Turkish alliance and Saudi-Turkish relations.”
According to Khashoggi, it was very evident that the Saudi people liked what Erdogan said. “Of course, there were a few voices that were critical of this and that, saying Erdogan was ambiguous; well, of course, leaders are often ambiguous to balance an answer.”
This was Khashoggi’s third interview with Erdogan. “I interviewed him the first time when he was the mayor of Istanbul in the 1990s; the second time I interviewed him was when he won the prestigious King Faisal Prize,” he said.
Did he look like a very confident leader of his nation, especially after the failed coup of July 15? Khashoggi’s answer was: “Oh, yes. Very confident.”


Saudi King Salman, crown prince receive US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Updated 18 min 40 sec ago
0

Saudi King Salman, crown prince receive US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

  • Pompeo thanked King Salman for his commitment to a thorough, transparent investigation
  • The crown prince assured Pompeo that the US and Saudi Arabia are "old, strong allies"

RIYADH: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with King Salman in the Saudi capital on Tuesday, before arriving at Riyadh’s royal palace to talk with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Pompeo thanked Saudi King Salman for his commitment to a thorough, transparent investigation of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance, while the crown prince assured him that the US and Saudi Arabia are "old, strong allies."

The US chief diplomat was greeted at Riyadh airport by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and ambassador to Washington Prince Khalid bin Salman.

“I hope you are comfortable here,” the king told Pompeo, according to the reporters. Pompeo responded, “Thank you for accepting my visit on behalf of President Trump.”

(With AFP)