U.S. is a partner in bloodshed with Jerusalem move, Erdogan says

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday the United States’ decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital had made Washington complicit in violence.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters during a meeting of his ruling AK Party in Sivas, Turkey December 10, 2017. Yasin Bulbul/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS

His comments on the U.S. move have strained fragile relations between Turkey and Israel, which only restored ties last year following a six-year diplomatic rift. Erdogan, a frequent critic of Israel, has said the decision by U.S. President Donald Trump will spark violence in the region.

“The ones who made Jerusalem a dungeon for Muslims and members of other religions will never be able to clean the blood from their hands,” Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara.

“With their decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the United States has become a partner in this bloodshed,” he said, adding he did not consider Trump’s decision binding.

Trump’s decision last week overturned longstanding U.S. policy on Jerusalem, a city holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians. The status of Jerusalem has been one of the biggest obstacles to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians for generations.

Over the weekend Erdogan referred to Israel as a “terror state” and an “invader state”, prompting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fire back.

“I’m not used to receiving lectures about morality from a leader who bombs Kurdish villages in his native Turkey, who jails journalists, helps Iran go around international sanctions and who helps terrorists, including in Gaza, kill innocent people,” Netanyahu said at a news conference.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group has fought a decades-old insurgency with the Turkish state in which more than 40,000 people have been killed. The conflict flared up after the collapse of a ceasefire in 2015.

Last year Israel and Turkey restored ties following a six-year rupture that occurred after Israeli marines stormed an aid ship in 2010 to enforce a naval blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, killing 10 Turkish activists on board.

The normalization of ties between both countries has been driven in part by the prospect of lucrative Mediterranean gas deals as well as by mutual concerns about regional security.

Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz; Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by David Dolan and Peter Graff