JERUSALEM, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would rather meet with the president of Sudan, indicted of war crimes, than with Israel's prime minister.
The Turkish leader made the statements while meeting with party members in Istanbul Sunday. Erdogan's response was to a question on whether Sudanese leader Omar Hassan al-Bashir planned to attend the Islamic Conference in the city, Haaretz said Monday. Bashir has since said he will not attend.
Erdogan told party members he would rather confront Bashir who was indicted for allegedly orchestrating crimes against humanity in Darfur, than discuss with Netanyahu the deaths of civilians in Gaza, the newspaper quoted him saying.
Erdogan said he did not believe Bashir was guilty of the crimes even though the International Criminal Court in The Hague in March indicted him on seven counts, the paper said.
Erdogan said he is willing to welcome the Sudanese Muslim leader to Turkey because he doubts a Muslim is capable of committing genocide, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet said. To support his stand, Erdogan said when he visited Darfur he did not witness any genocide taking place, the Turkish newspaper said.
Erdogan an outspoken critic of Israel recently canceled a joint NATO drill because of Israel's participation.
Last month, Israel's Foreign Minister issued a strong protest to the Turkish Embassy over the broadcast of an inciting and inflammatory television series against Israel that appeared on a Turkish state-sponsored television channel.