ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday he would be "the first to applaud" if Istanbul is chosen to host the 2020 Olympics.
Tokyo and Madrid are also bidding for the games.
"If Istanbul wins the right to host the Olympic Games, I will be the first to applaud it," the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Abe as saying. "I have no doubt that Turkey would be the first to applaud if Tokyo wins."
Abe appeared to be trying to make amends for remarks by the governor of Tokyo, Naoki Inose, who suggested in an interview with the New York Times that Istanbul was less developed and less equipped to host the games than the Japanese capital.
Inose was also quoted as saying "the only thing (Muslim countries) share in common is Allah and they are fighting with each other, and they have classes."
The governor later apologized and Turkey said it accepted the apology.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan later jokingly said he had asked Abe to withdraw Tokyo's bid, sparking laughter from an audience of journalists, bureaucrats and businessmen.
"I told him that Japan has already hosted the Olympic Games; you should withdraw so that Turkey can host the Olympic Games," Erdogan said. "It would be good if they could also convey this message to the Tokyo governor."
Abe responded: "That was in 1964 and I was a child at that time. We would like to ensure that the Japanese people enjoy the pleasure of the games."
Tokyo is bidding for a second straight time after a failed attempt for the 2016 Games, which went to Rio de Janeiro. Istanbul is bidding for a fifth time for its first games.