‘Our only concern is Islam’: Erdogan slams claims of Turkey-ISIS link

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at a joint media briefing with Indonesia's President Joko Widodo at the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia July 31, 2015. (Reuters)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday denied common claims that his country was assisting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants, claiming that the group was damaging the reputation of Islam.

“We have only one concern. It is Islam, Islam and Islam,” Erdogan told a thinktank at the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, where he is on a three-day state visit.

“It is impossible for us to accept the overshadowing of Islam. Islam is damaged from what is all being done now,” the Istanbul-based Hurriyet newspaper quoted him as saying.

The president, who is also a cofounder of the ruling Islamic-rooted AK party, said that Turkey would continue its fight against ISIS, a week after Ankara began to launch strikes against the group and Kurdish PKK militants.

The PKK has accused Ankara of collaborating with ISIS, while Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party claims Erdogan is using strikes against the jihadists as “cover” for its main goal of eroding the PKK.

Though not naming the PKK, Erdogan said “dark powers” were spreading misinformation about Turkey, dismissing accusations against Turkey as “ungrounded and unjustified.”

“The footage disclosed to the world by the hand of this organization [ISIS] greatly damages the perception of Islam and Muslims in the world. We all have to defy this as Turkey does,” said Erdogan, adding that the group - who are notorious for publishing gruesome execution online – had no place in Islam.

Turkey had long been reluctant to take action against ISIS militants. Its failure to let U.S. planes use one of its airbases for raids against IS in Syria had caused severe irritation in Washington.

Turkey’s decision to lump ISIS together with Kurdish forces who bitterly oppose the jihadist group has surprised some Western allies, but NATO this week united behind the alliance’s only Muslim member.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:45 - GMT 06:45