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NATO leader, in Turkey, declares respect for Islam

NATO leader, in Turkey, declares respect for Islam

NATO's new secretary general reiterated respect for Islam on Thursday, on the first day of his visit to the alliance's only predominantly Muslim member.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen is in Turkey for two days to discuss NATO operations in Afghanistan and improve relations with the Muslim world.
"Please see my presence here tonight as a clear manifestation of my respect for Islam as one of the world's greatest religions," Fogh Rasmussen said at an iftar _ the evening meal that breaks the fast during the holy month of Ramadan _ with Turkey's leaders.
"I have the deepest respect for people's religious feelings," he said.
Fogh Rasmussen became secretary general Aug. 1, after Turkey withdrew its objections to his candidacy. Turkey initially opposed his appointment because, as Denmark's prime minister, he infuriated many Muslims following the publication in 2005 of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
Fogh Rasmussen distanced himself from the cartoons but resisted calls to apologize for them, citing freedom of speech.
Turkish leaders said the choice would antagonize Afghanistan and Pakistan, both predominantly Muslim countries.
Fogh Rasmussen also angered Turkey by opposing its membership in the European Union.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan used the event Thursday to criticize terrorist acts carried out in the name of Islam, urge greater respect for Muslims in the West and push for Turkey's EU membership.
"If the European Union desires to be a global actor, the home for an alliance of civilizations, then Turkey must take its place within the Union," he said.
The NATO leader arrived in Ankara from Athens, where he urged to end disputes he says are harming security efforts in Afghanistan.
Turkey and Greece have been at odds for years over the divided island country of Cyprus.
Frustrated in its attempts to join the EU, Turkey does not allow formal relations between NATO and the EU, making it impossible for NATO to provide protection for EU trainers in Afghanistan.
"At the end of the day, the lack of security agreements might put our personnel on the ground at risk. ... It is a subject of real concern to me," Fogh Rasmussen said.


Updated : 2021-06-17 16:58 GMT+08:00