Erdogan Visits Vatican City Amid Protests

Following his visit to the Vatican, Erdoğan will meet his counterpart Italian President Sergio Mattarella at a working lunch in Rome.

At the end of the meet, Erdogan said he hoped that pope would keep him in his prayers.

Turkish sources say that on the agenda of the visit are bilateral relations, the latest developments on Jerusalem, regional issues, the humanitarian tragedy in Syria, and the fight against terrorism, xenophobia and Islamophobia.

Despite previous disagreements, the two leaders found common ground on Jerusalem after the United States unilaterally recognized the city as the capital of Israel.

Erdogan discussed bilateral ties and the issue of the European Union membership with Italy's President Sergio Mattarella and Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano.

Nevertheless, a small group of Kurdish protesters gathered near the Vatican to accuse the Turkish leader of being a "dictator", a "criminal" and that he had "blood on his hands".

Mr Erdogan met Pope Francis for just under an hour on Monday morning, discussing the status of Jerusalem and tensions in the Middle East, as well as the challenges facing Turkey as it takes in vast numbers of refugees.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is on a diplomatic offensive to convince Western leaders and new ally Russian Federation that Ankara's military operation against the Kurds in northern Syria is aimed at purging "terror elements" and not created to permanently occupy Syrian territory. The pope was a prominent critic of President Donald Trump's decision.

Pope Francis and Turkey's president, it said, highlighted "the need to promote peace and stability in the region through dialogue and negotiation, with respect for human rights and global law".

"The status of Jerusalem is a central issue for both Muslims and Christians, both the pope and myself are committed to protect the status quo", Erdogan said in a La Stampa interview, on Sunday.

According to Agence France-Presse, 3,500 police have been deployed to ensure the visit passes off without incident. The pontiff, as well as a medallion with the dove of peace, donated Erdogan an etching of St Peter's as it was at the beginning of the 17th century, a copy of his encyclical Laudato si' and his message for this year's World Peace Day.

Erdogan arrives in Italy.

Far-right Brothers of Italy party also protested, expressing on Twitter their stand against "Turkey in Europe".

  • Rogelio Becker