Turkish FM Accuses Saudis for Demolition of Ottoman Castle

Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem on Thursday called the demolition by the Saudi Arabia of the Ottoman-era al-Ajyad fortress in Mecca as a "cultural genocide," reported the Anatolia News Agency.

Cem made the comment when he was appearing before a session at the Parliamentary General Assembly.

"The Saudi administration's tearing down the historical al-Ajyadfortress in Mecca was nothing but a cultural genocide. I share reaction of our deputies against the demolition of the fortress to build a business and hotel complex in the place," Cem said.

Saudi authorities demolished the 230-year-old al-Ajyad fortress last week to make way for a 533-million-dollar construction project.

Noting that both the Foreign Ministry and other relevant institutions had done their utmost to prevent the demolition of thefort, Cem added, "unfortunately, we could not prevent it. Sometimes, your power cannot be influential in another country."

However, he said, Turkey will continue to monitor all the developments and react against any action targeting its historical assets and inform the world on "this shameful action."

The clash of words between Ankara and Riyadh escalated on Wednesday as Saudi Arabia waved off Turkish protest against its decision to destroy the Ottoman-era historic site as a matter of national sovereignty.

The al-Ajyad Castle was built in 1780 by Ottoman rulers to protect the city and its Muslim shrines from invaders.

The vast Ottoman Empire, which crumbled after the World War I, stretched from the Balkans to the Middle East, encompassing the Muslim pilgrimage cities of Mecca and Medina. The Turkish Republic was born in 1923 after the demise of the empire.

Turkey's relations with Saudi Arabia are uneasy at times. As a predominantly Muslim, but constitutionally secular country, Turkey has in the past criticized the kingdom's rigid Islamic laws.

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