Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has cut short a visit to the United States and will not take part in a second day of ceremonies to commemorate the death of boxer Muhammad Ali, his office said on Friday.
Dogan news agency reported that the Turkish leader was upset that funeral organizers rejected his request to lay a piece from the cloth covering the Kaaba, in Mecca, on Ali’s coffin and speak at the funeral. They reportedly also denied a request for Turkey’s top cleric to read from the Quran.
Before arriving in the U.S., funeral organizers had removed Erdogan from the list of speakers on the grounds that there would not be sufficient time.
Erdogan’s office said in a statement that he had left the United States after a dinner to break the day’s Ramadan fast late on Thursday, without giving any explanation.
In addition, a brief fight broke out between Erdogan’s bodyguards and a US secret service official, allegedly because the official had wanted to stand in the same place as Erdogan’s bodyguards as the president was getting into his car.
There were also rumours that the funeral might lead to a potentially tense meeting between Erdogan and his arch-nemesis Fethullah Gulen, whose Hizmet movement was last week branded a “terrorist” organisation by the Turkish government.