UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS
By Baris Gundogan and Yildiz Aktas
ANKARA (AA) – Turkey's ruling party spokesman on Wednesday hailed demands for equality as anti-racist protests continue in the country after the killing of African-American man George Floyd.
Turkey is against all groups trying to turn legitimate protests in the US violent and bring public order under their destructive influence, said Omer Celik, spokesman for the Justice and Development (AK) Party, after a party board meeting.
The US has been facing protests since last week when a video went viral showing Floyd being pinned down by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as he was being arrested.
Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Shortly after, Floyd appeared to lose consciousness, but Chauvin maintained his position on the victim.
He died shortly after being taken to a hospital.
His last words were "I can't breathe," which became the slogan of the nationwide protests.
An independent autopsy on Monday found that Floyd was killed by "asphyxiation from sustained pressure."
– Conquest Feast at Hagia Sophia
Rejecting criticism by the Greek Foreign Ministry’s on the event that Turkey organized to mark the 567th anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of the former Byzantine capital, Celik said such a celebration was held by respecting a world heritage without insulting anyone.
Celik said having an enmity on the basis of religion is not even a matter of discussion in Turkey, adding: "But the only state in Europe that prohibits the call to prayer (adhan) from their minarets is Greece."
”The only European Union member without a mosque in its capital is Greece,” he said.
On Friday, Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism organized Conquest Feast at Hagia Sophia in coordination with the Turkish Presidency’s Directorate of Communications as part of celebrations throughout the day of the conquest of Istanbul.
The program was followed with the recitation of the 48th chapter of the Quran, Surah Al-Fath, meaning Victory or Triumph, which Erdogan viewed via video.
Turkey on Saturday shot back at an objection from Greece on the reading of passages from the Muslim holy book, the Quran, at the Hagia Sophia, a landmark mosque-converted museum in Istanbul.
Turkey held these ceremonies not to challenge anyone, but to remember its history, memory, and to commemorate a day, Celik stressed.
– Israel's annexation plan
Commenting on Israel's plan to annex the occupied West Bank, Celik said: "We rejects Israel's West Bank annexation plan and warned the whole world once again."
The plan is part of US President Donald Trump’s so-called Deal of the Century that was announced on Jan. 28. It refers to Jerusalem as “Israel’s undivided capital” and recognizes Israeli sovereignty over large parts of the West Bank.
The plan calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the form of an archipelago connected by bridges and tunnels.
Palestinian officials say that under the US plan, Israel will annex 30-40% of the West Bank, including all of East Jerusalem.
Citing NATO’s statement that it was ready to support the internationally recognized government in Libya, Celik said it was confirmed by NATO that Turkey's position on Libya is in compliance with the UN.
– Open Skies Treaty
Touching upon the US decision to withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies (TOS), Omer Celik said it is “not a positive attitude” for Turkey.
It will adversely affect the security of the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, and Europe, North Africa, Celik underlined.
The Open Skies Treaty was agreed in 1992 by the US and NATO allies, as well as Russia and former members of the Soviet bloc as a major act ending the Cold War era aiming at preventing Washington and Moscow from entering a military showdown.
The treaty allows nations to fly above each other's territory on military reconnaissance flights as a measure to help bolster confidence neither country is imminently preparing for war.