ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey is unsettled by “anti-Islamic” messages in the U.S. presidential campaign, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday, citing the 2016 race for the White House that has seen the Republican front-runner advocate a ban on Muslim immigration.
Donald Trump, the businessman-turned-politician leading the polls ahead of the November 2016 election, last month said that all foreign Muslims should be temporarily prevented from entering the United States, a proposal he repeated in his first TV ad last week.
In November, Trump said he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheering the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York’s World Trade Center, an assertion fact-checkers have not supported.
“It’s election year in the U.S., we’re disturbed by anti-Islamic remarks by some of the candidates,” Cavusoglu told a conference of ambassadors in Ankara.
Over the weekend, a Muslim advocacy group called on Trump to apologize after a Muslim woman who silently protested at one of his rallies was removed by security personnel.
Another Republican presidential candidate, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, has said Muslims are unfit for the U.S. presidency, although he later said he would be open to a Muslim candidate if they renounced Sharia law.
Candidates have also raised questions about Syrian refugees, but few have directly challenged Trump’s Muslim proposal.
Representatives of the Republican National Committee and Trump could not be immediately reached for comment.
NATO allies Turkey and the United States are part of a Washington-led coalition to fight Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. But differences of opinion over which opposition groups should be backed in Syria have recently caused tensions, with Ankara summoning the U.S. ambassador last October over support to Kurdish groups.
In a wide-ranging policy speech to the annual meeting of Turkish ambassadors, Cavusoglu defended Turkey’s deployment of a force protection unit to Bashiqa in northern Iraq, a move which has caused a diplomatic row with Baghdad.
He repeated that Ankara respects Iraq’s territorial integrity and said the deployment was made after security deteriorated at Bashiqa, where Turkish soldiers have been training an Iraqi militia to fight Islamic State.
Cavusoglu also said Turkey was ready to make “every effort” to help resolve tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which have worsened since the execution of a high-profile Shi‘ite cleric by Saudi Arabia earlier this month.
But he appeared to dash any hopes of an imminent normalization in ties with Israel, saying there was no agreement yet on Turkish demands for compensation for the deaths of 10 Turkish activists on an aid ship in 2010 or for an end to the Gaza blockade.
An Israeli official said last month Israel and Turkey had reached a preliminary agreement to normalize relations.
Cavusoglu also said Ankara would fulfill its responsibilities to ensure the resolution this year of the dispute over Cyprus, split since a 1974 Turkish military intervention.
Additional reporting by Washington Newsroom; Writing by Dasha Afanasieva; Editing by John Stonestreet and Alden Bentley