Turkey’s Erdoğan calls on Jerusalem to be recognised as Palestinian capital

Turkish autocratic Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called on the international community on Wednesday to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.

“I invite countries that claim international law and equity to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state under occupation,” Erdoğan said, speaking at the extraordinary Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in İstanbul on Wednesday

“It is a must for countries that have not yet recognized the Palestinian state to take this important step, to maintain a balance that will ensure good sense and justice in the region,” he added.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has also stated on Wednesday that Muslim nations must press the world to recognise East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state as he opened an Islamic summit called in response to a US decision to recognise the city as Israel’s capital.

The meeting of leaders and ministers from more than 50 Muslim countries takes place a week after US President Donald Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem, which triggered widespread protests in the Middle East and Muslim world.

“Firstly the Palestinian state must be recognised by all other countries. We must all strive together for this,” Çavuşoğlu said according to a report by Reuters. “We must encourage other countries to recognise the Palestinian state on the basis of its 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital,” he added.

Jerusalem, revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, is home to Islam’s third holiest site and has been at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades. Turkish government has said Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would plunge the world “into a fire with no end”, and called an emergency summit of the OIC to urge Washington to change course.

Çavuşoğlu said this week Turkey would not call for sanctions in response to the US move, but would appeal for all countries that have not formally recognised Palestine as a state to do so, and to issue a strong rejection of the US decision.

He said the summit would declare East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital and call for Israel to withdraw from territories it occupied in a 1967 Middle East war. Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in that war and later annexed it in an action not recognised internationally.

Later in the day, the 57-member OIC has recognized East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine and invited other countries to follow suit. The organization’s decision, reached during an extraordinary summit in İstanbul on Wednesday, counters the US’s recognition of Jerusalem as the “undivided” capital of Israel.

“We declare East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine and invite all countries to recognize the State of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its occupied capital,” read the final communiqué released after the OIC Summit in İstanbul, chaired by President Erdoğan, the current OIC term president.

The 23-article İstanbul Declaration expressed full solidarity with Palestine and “rejected and condemned in the strongest terms the unilateral decision by the President of the United States America recognizing Al-Quds as the so-called capital of Israel.”

Trump’s move is an “attack on the historical, legal, natural and national rights of the Palestinian people, a deliberate undermining of all peace efforts, a move to extremism and terrorism, and a threat to international peace and security,” read the communiqué.

The declaration also said the OIC holds the US “wholly responsible for the consequences of not retracting this illegal decision,” which the organization regards as “an announcement of the U.S. administration’s withdrawal from its role as sponsor of peace.”

It also called on the UN Security Council to assume its responsibilities immediately and reaffirm the legal status of the City of Al-Quds Ash-Sharif, and to end the Israeli occupation of the land of the State of Palestine.

The communiqué affirmed “its readiness to take up this grave violation in the UN General Assembly should the UN Security Council fail to act.”

The İstanbul Summit brought kings and heads of states and governments from all member countries except Syria just a week after Trump ordered to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Referring to Israel as a “terror and occupying state,” Erdoğan called on Trump to reverse his Jerusalem decision, vowing that Muslims would never give up on a sovereign State of Palestine with East Jerusalem its capital.

“I invite all countries supporting international law to recognize Jerusalem as the occupied capital of Palestine. We cannot be late anymore,” he said.

In his closing remarks, Erdoğan lashed out at Trump’s move describing the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as the product of an “Evangelist and Zionist mentality.”

Summit was attended by leaders including Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, Qatar Emir al-Thani, Jordanian King Abdullah II were among the most prominent leaders present at the summit. Saudi Arabia was represented by the country’s Islamic affairs minister.

The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Bashir over his alleged role in war crimes including genocide in Sudan’s Darfur province, but Turkey is not a member of the court and not obliged to implement the warrants.

Meanwhile, Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW) reported that there is little risk that recent populist moves and statements by senior Turkish officials about Israel will be allowed to jeopardise the thriving commercial relationship between the two Middle Eastern states.

“Turkish exports to Israel have continued to grow over the last several years. They were at about $2,5 billion in 2016,” it quoted President Erdoğan’s top economic advisor Hatice Karahan as saying. “In the first 10 months of this year, Turkish exports to Israel have already gone up another 14 percent.”

The two countries have plans to create a large system of pipelines called Med Stream for the exchange of electricity, natural gas, crude oil, and water, the agency said. While a string of events have led Turkey’s political perspective on Israel to turn sharply negative, the commercial benefits of the bilateral relationship have not been politicised, Deutsche Welle said.

“Erdoğan has been pitching himself as the ‘saviour’ of the persecuted and maligned in the Muslim world for some time,” DW quoted Kristian Brakel, the Turkey head of German Green Party-linked think-tank the Heinrich Böll Foundation as saying. “That is a pretty easy sell when it comes to Jerusalem, and works especially well in that instance because the subject has a special place in the hearts of many Muslims.”

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