ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday that Saudi Arabia’s execution of 47 convicts, including a prominent Shiite cleric, was an “internal legal matter” of the kingdom.
In his first reaction to Saturday’s executions in Saudi Arabia that have sparked a regional row between Tehran and Riyadh, Erdogan alleged that a “mastermind” was behind the growing tensions, whose aim was to “shatter” the Muslim world.
“The executions in Saudi Arabia are an internal legal matter. Whether you approve of the decision or not is a separate issue,” Erdogan said in a televised speech, quoted by the Hurriyet Daily News website.
He dismissed suggestions that the executions were aimed at provoking tensions with Shiite Muslims, saying “only three (of those executed) were Shiites.
The president also said that attacks on Saudi missions on Sunday, by angry protesters in Iran who were outraged that the executed included prominent Shiite cleric Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, were “unacceptable.”
The attacks have led to Tehran and Riyadh rupturing ties, and Saudi Arabia’s closest Sunni allies stepping into the fray to cut or downgrade relations with Tehran. Erdogan claimed the regional row was intentional.
“A mastermind is managing this. We should know this. The issue is: ‘Let’s have a sectarian conflict in the Islamic world and shatter the Islamic world within itself,’” Eredogan was quoted as saying.
The Turkish president was in Saudi Arabia last month, where he met with King Salman and the kingdom’s ruling elite, in what was seen as a new warming of relations between the two Sunni-dominated countries.
Riyadh and Ankara are on the same side in Syria, where they insist that only the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad can end a civil war now in its fifth year.
On Monday, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus, who is also the government spokesman, condemned the executions, saying that “death penalties, especially ones that are politically-motivated, are of no help to making peace in the region.”