Turkish president defends Saudi over Hajj criticisms

Published September 26th, 2015 - 10:13 GMT

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has spoken out to defend Saudi Arabia in the wake of the Hajj tragedy that left more than 750 pilgrims dead.

“It is not right to have the approach of putting the blame on Saudi Arabia,” he told reporters in Istanbul. “On the contrary, during the Hajj and Umrah I participated in, I came to observe closely the level of sensibility in the organization work conducted there.

“Therefore I cannot say 'the organization is wrong’.

“I believe that the Saudi Arabian government will take some decisions just as they did to act decisively after the construction incident.”

At least 800 pilgrims were injured in Thursday’s crush near Islam’s holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

The tragedy unfolded in Mina, around five kilometers (three miles) east of Mecca, shortly after pilgrims had performed the ritual “stoning of the devil” at Jamarat.

According to Saudi figures, some two million Muslims from around the world are participating in this year’s Hajj.

The tragedy comes two weeks after 107 people were killed when a crane collapsed in Mecca’s Grand Mosque, which had been packed with worshippers at the time.

In further comments after a meeting with the president of Macedonia, Erdogan touched on the civil war in Syria.

“If Assad has a little bit of love for Syria, if he has a little bit of love for the Syrian people, he has to walk out of this,” Erdogan said.

“We do not have any problem with Syria yet neither the world nor Assad should forget that we have a border of 911 kilometers [with Syria] and we are under threat from terrorist organizations there.

“We can be patient up to a point. After that even patience has a limit.”

The Syrian conflict, now in its fifth year, has led to the death of at least 250,000 people and made the country the world's single-largest source of refugees, according to the U.N.

The war involves a number of militant groups, including Daesh and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, the latter being closely linked to the PKK terrorists Turkey is fighting in its eastern and southeastern provinces.


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