Erdogan accuses EU of launching anti-Islam ‘crusade’

Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (AFP)
Updated 16 March 2017

Erdogan accuses EU of launching anti-Islam ‘crusade’

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s president Thursday accused the EU’s top court of starting a “crusade” against Islam after a ruling allowing European companies to ban employees from wearing religious or political symbols including the Islamic headscarf.
“The European Union’s court, The European Court of Justice, my esteemed brothers, have started a crusade struggle against the (Muslim) crescent,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a televised speech,
“Where is freedom of religion?” he said, referring to the court ruling this week.
“Shame on your European Union acquis!” Erdogan said, referring to EU law. “Shame on your values. Shame on your law and justice!”
“Europe is swiftly rolling back to the days before World War II,” he added.
The European Court of Justice said it does not constitute “direct discrimination” if a firm has an internal rule banning the wearing of “any political, philosophical or religious sign.”
Turkey last month said it was lifting a historic ban on female officers wearing the Islamic headscarf in the country’s officially secular armed forces, the last institution where the wearing of the garment was forbidden.
Meanwhile, Erdogan told the Dutch prime minister he had lost Turkey as a friend, despite Mark Rutte’s victory over the far-right in parliamentary elections.
“Hey Rutte! You may have emerged as the number one party in the election but you must know that you have lost Turkey as your friend,” Erdogan said in a televised speech, amid a diplomatic crisis with The Hague due to the blocking of campaign rallies by Turkish ministers.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier said there was “no difference” between the ruling Dutch liberals and the “fascist” anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders.
Cavusoglu also predicted that “religious wars” will start in Europe due to the rise of the far right.
Turkey and Europe have been locked in a diplomatic spat after The Netherlands and Germany blocked Turkish ministers from holding campaign rallies to secure a “yes” vote in next month’s referendum on expanding Erdogan’s powers.
Erdogan ridiculed Rutte who Turkish officials said had told Prime Minister Binali Yildirim that the two sides could iron out their differences over dinner. “He says ‘we can have dinner with the prime minister after the election.’ There is no such prime minister. You have lost Turkey,” said Erdogan.
The French and German leaders condemned Erdogan’s “unacceptable” remarks accusing Germany and the Netherlands of acting like “Nazis.”
Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel “consider comparisons with Nazism and aggressive statements against Germany and other member states unacceptable,” they said in a joint statement after speaking by telephone, the French president’s office said.
While Erdogan has repeatedly accused the countries of acting like “Nazis,” the EU has warned Ankara to show moderation in its language.

US accuses Turkey of war crimes in Syria

Updated 15 min 35 sec ago

US accuses Turkey of war crimes in Syria

  • Trump’s envoy demands explanation from Ankara of possible use of illegal white phosphorus munitions during the Turkish invasion
  • Envoy also expresses concerns about anti-Assad fighters backed by Turkish forces.

JEDDAH: The US demanded an explanation from Ankara on Wednesday for what it described as “war crimes” committed during Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria.

President Donald Trump’s special envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey, said there were concerns about anti-Assad fighters backed by Turkish forces.

“Many people fled because they’re very concerned about these Turkish-supported Syrian opposition forces, as we are. We’ve seen several incidents which we consider war crimes,” the envoy told a House of Representatives hearing.

He said the US was also investigating the possible use of illegal white phosphorus munitions during the Turkish invasion, and wanted an explanation from Turkey’s government “at a high level.”

Jeffrey described Turkey’s invasion to drive Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters out of the border area as “a tragic disaster for northeast Syria.”

Meanwhile Russian military police began patrols on the Syrian border on Wednesday, following an agreement on Tuesday between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Kremlin told Kurdish fighters to pull back or face being attacked again by Turkish forces.

“It’s quite obvious that if the Kurdish units don’t withdraw with their weapons then Syrian border guards and Russian military police will have to step back. And the remaining Kurdish units will be steamrolled by the Turkish army,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

In Washington, Trump said a US-negotiated cease-fire between Turkey and the Kurds would be permanent, and he lifted US sanctions on Ankara. “We’ve saved the lives of many, many Kurds,” he said.

Turkey considers the YPG terrorists because of their links to PKK insurgents in Turkey. It has demanded they retreat from the entire border region, creating a 30-km-deep “safe zone” where Turkey could also settle some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees on its soil.

The new agreement allows Turkey to control that area. On Wednesday, Turkish-backed Syrian fighters in Ras Al-Ain unfurled their flag on top of the Kurdish fighters’ former HQ.