ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan described the United Arab Emirates foreign minister as impertinent and spoiled by money on Thursday after he retweeted accusations that Ottoman forces looted the holy city of Medina during World War One.
Without naming him, Erdogan said UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahayan – who shared a tweet accusing Ottoman troops led by Fakhreddin Pasha of stealing money and manuscripts from Medina in 1916 – was ignorant.
“Some impertinent man sinks low and goes as far as accusing our ancestors of thievery … What spoiled this man? He was spoiled by oil, by the money he has,” Erdogan told an awards ceremony at his Ankara palace.
“When my ancestors were defending Medina, you impudent (man), where were yours? First, you have to give account for this,” he added.
The United Arab Emirates, a close U.S. ally, sees Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted ruling party as a friend of Islamist forces the UAE opposes across the Arab world.
Relations were further strained by Ankara’s support for Qatar after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt imposed sanctions on the Gulf emirate in June.
Two months later, Sheikh Abdullah criticised what he called Turkey and Iran’s “colonial” actions in Syria, though Turkey and the UAE have both opposed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Medina, now part of Saudi Arabia, was under Ottoman rule until the empire’s collapse at the end of World War One.
On Wednesday, Erdogan said Fakhreddin Pasha, who led the Ottoman forces, had not stolen from Medina or its people but strived to protect the city – where the Prophet Muhammad was buried – and its occupants during a time of war.
“Believe me, this man who insulted us, who disrespected us, wouldn’t even know what the holy relics are. They are ignorant like this,” Erdogan said.
(Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Dominic Evans and Ralph Boulton)