Erdogan arrives at the Vatican: Consonance on Jerusalem, not on Kurds and human rights

Erdogan arrives at the Vatican: Consonance on Jerusalem, not on Kurds and human rights

By Andrea Tornielli/

Today, Monday, February 5, the much-wanted audience by the Turkish President, around which his trip to Italy

Jerusalem, but not only. Armed intervention against the Kurds and the Christian minorities problems in the country will also be discussed at this morning’s meeting in the Vatican between the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Pope Francis. Erdogan’s two recent phone calls to Bergoglio last December, together with today’s meeting, can help understand the current setting. In fact, more than half a century has passed since the last visit of a Turkish head of state to the Vatican: it was 1959 and then-President Celal Bayar visited John XXIII, the Pope with a diplomatic past who had lived in Istanbul in the 1930s, forced to roam the streets disguised in civilian clothes.

In November 2014, Francis went to Ankara. However, a few months later, relation between the Holy See and the Turkish government turned frosty following a papal intervention on the Armenian genocide. Now Bergoglio is back being an important ally for Erdogan, busy attempting to reaffirm his international leadership after the coup in the summer of 2016 and the repression that followed.

In the interview with the director of La Stampa published yesterday, the Turkish President stated that at the top of the Vatican talks agenda is “the status quo of Jerusalem”, which “must be preserved, on the basis of UN resolutions, assuring Muslims, Christians and Jews a peaceful coexistence. The international community must take responsibility for ensuring peace”.

Last December, the announced decision by US President Donald Trump to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem provoked a unanimous and opposing reaction not only in the Muslim world, but also among the various Christian communities in the Middle East. The Pope spoke with the Palestinian leader Abu Mazen, with the Jordanian king Abdallah II, and now he will discuss the issue with Erdogan as well.

Francis expressed his concern about unilateral decisions that risk further complicating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is an evident harmony of views with the traditional Vatican position on the Holy City, which is that of an “internationally guaranteed statute” to safeguard the historical and religious character of Jerusalem and free access for all to the Holy sites.

Today’s audience, around which the trip of the Turkish President to Italy was built, was strongly desired by Erdogan. And, as it is a common and established Vatican practice, it was agreed upon immediately. But if there can be consonance on the status of Jerusalem, there will be differences of view on other issues of the Vatican’s agenda: the Holy See is concerned about the war campaign against the Kurds (the operation “Olive Branch” in Afrin), to which the Turkish government has asked an official support from the Christian minorities of the country.

Already in 2014, when Pope Francis addressed Erdogan in the newly-inaugurated presidential palace of Ankara, he said that “it is legitimate to stop an unjust aggressor”, but this must be done “always respecting the international law “, reiterating that “that the problem cannot be resolved solely through a military response”.

In addition to the human rights issue, Francis and Erdogan will address the problems of Christian minorities in Turkey and the difficulties the Church is experiencing in having recognized its few properties left.

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 14:42
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