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.
Erdogan, who attended a Muslim funeral for Ali on Thursday, had been expected to be among world leaders and fans gathering in Ali’s Kentucky hometown on Friday to bid a final farewell to the boxing great, who died a week ago.
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. Broadcaster CNN Turk said that Erdogan had wanted to lay a piece of cloth on Ali’s coffin, and had wanted the head of Turkey’s religious affairs directorate to recite from the Koran, but that his wishes had been refused.
An official in Erdogan’s office denied this, saying that after attending Thursday’s funeral and visiting the Muhammad Ali Center, he decided not to stay longer because he had “completed his religious service”.
Erdogan praised Ali as a “voice of the oppressed” at the dinner hosted by Turks and other Muslims living in the United States late on Thursday, his office said.
“The fact that he converted to Islam at the age of 22 in a country such as the United States and maintained his stance without diverting from the path he knew as right … attracted our admiration,” Erdogan said, according to the statement.