Turkish gov’t harshly reacts US’ decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israeli capital

Turkish government has hardly reacted against the decision of the US’s formally recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The decision was announced by US President Donald Trump on Wednesday brushing aside broad-based international opposition.

Trump has also directed the US State Department to initiate the relocation of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city Jerusalem, which is claimed by Israelis and Palestinians. The move is expected to take a number of years.

“My announcement today marks the beginning of a new approach to conflict between Israel and the Palestinians,” Trump said during a public address from the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House.

“There will of course be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement — but we are confident that ultimately, as we work through these disagreements, we will arrive at a place of greater understanding and cooperation,” he said. “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality.”

Trump’s decision places the US at odds with decades of American policy, as well as the rest of the international community, except Israel. No nation has its embassy in Jerusalem. It is also likely to stymy any effort to restart long-stalled peace Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Trump will sign a six-month waiver off-setting the embassy’s relocation on national security grounds, according to an official knowledgeable on the matter. However, successive US presidents of both parties have signed the waiver since the Jerusalem Embassy Act went into law in 1995, perpetually forestalling the building’s legislated move over concerns it could spark a diplomatic crisis and be a death knell for peace talks.

“Some say they lacked courage, but they made their best judgement based on facts as they understood them at the time,” Trump said referring to past presidents who signed the waiver. “Nevertheless the record is in. After more than two decades of waivers we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result.”

Jerusalem is considered holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims, and changes to the contested city’s status quo have been historically met with fierce opposition. In making his announcement, Trump called on all parties to maintain the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites, including Haram al-Sharif, or the Aqsa compound.

Vice President Mike Pence will visit the region “in the coming days to reaffirm our commitment to work with partners throughout the Middle East to defeat radicalism that threatens the hopes and dreams of future generations”, Trump said.

Palestinian leaders have already called for three “days of rage” to contest Trump’s decision. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on Wednesday for achieving inter-Palestinian reconciliation to face “risks” facing the Palestinian issue. The call comes ahead of an expected announcement by Trump to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem and officially recognize the city as Israel’s capital.

“In order to ensure the success of reconciliation, we have instructed the government to go to the Gaza Strip and work to find solutions to the daily suffering of our people there,” Abbas said in a statement carried by the official Wafa news agency. He appealed to the Palestinian people and factions to “focus on the upcoming challenges facing the national project by taking advantage of the opportunity to achieve national unity.”

He said the Palestinian unity is the “real response to all attempts aimed at violating our rights guaranteed by international law and norms.”

In October, rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah signed a landmark reconciliation agreement in Cairo aimed at healing their decade-long rift after Hamas captured Gaza from Fatah in 2007 after days of street fighting.

On Wednesday, the Turkish parliament has also issued a joint declaration against the US move recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. The declaration stated the “Turkish Parliament’s certain and undisputed will to reject this adventurous intention” of the US “The U.S. which has long remained committed to solving the Palestinian question, and bringing peace and stability to the region as an arbiter, and it represented its mission in this way to the world,” the declaration read.

The Turkish parliament voiced its concerns over the move, adding, the US move would trigger a series of developments, clashes and new human dramas. Unless a fair, long-lasting peace between Palestine and Israel, which is respectful of historic and spiritual values, is formed, there cannot be peace for humanity in the region, it added.

All political parties represented in the parliament put their signature on the declaration. The decision places the US at odds with the rest of the world — excluding Israel — reversing decades of American policy, and could stymy any effort to resume long-stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, according to most analysts.

Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has also said on Wednesday that an independent Palestine with 1967 borders and East Jerusalem as its capital is necessary for stability in the Middle East. “No steps that will change Jerusalem’s status, designated by UN decisions, should be taken,” Erdoğan said at a joint news conference with Jordanian King Abdullah II in Ankara.

“No one has the right to play with the destiny of billions of people for fulfilling personal ambitions,” Erdogan added. He said the US plan to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is not only against UN decisions but also Jerusalem’s ancient character. Erdogan called on the nations — who have still not recognized Palestine — to recognize the state of Palestine in order to provide balance and “keep justice alive” in the region.  “We call on U.S. to renounce this step which will trigger chaos in the region, and Israel to pursue policies that will contribute to peace,” Erdoğan added.

King Abdullah, for his part, said Al-Aqsa mosque complex in Jerusalem is very important for them. “There is no alternative to the two-state solution,” Abdullah added. Abdullah said he also conveyed to Trump his concerns over his decision to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem.

“We condemn the irresponsible statement of the US Administration declaring that it recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and it will be moving the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu wrote on his Twitter account. “This decision is against international law and relevant UN Resolutions.”

Turkish Foreign Ministry also issued a statement on the US announcement. “We condemn the irresponsible statement of the US administration that we learnt with great concern, declaring that it recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and it will be moving the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem,” the statement said.

The statement said that the decision is against international law and relevant UN Resolutions, as the annexation of Jerusalem by Israel has been rejected by international community and the UN. “It has been recurrently emphasized by various UN Resolutions that Palestinian question can only be settled through the existence of an independent, sovereign and contiguous State of Palestine based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

“It is unacceptable that the US, a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, ignores this fact. Attainment of independence by Palestine is a historical, conscientious and human obligation. Turkey will continue to advocate this,” the statement said.

It further stated that the decision will have negative reflections on the peace and stability in the region and also bears the risk of completely destroying the ground for peace. It called on the US administration to reconsider “this faulty decision which may result in highly negative outcomes and to avoid uncalculated steps that will harm the multicultural identity and historical status of Jerusalem.”

“These developments regarding Jerusalem will be taken up extensively at the OIC [Organisation of Islamic Cooperation] Leaders Summit and the Council of Foreign Ministers Meeting that will be held on December 13, 2017 in İstanbul upon the call made by President Erdoğan as the Summit Chair of the OIC,” the statement concluded.

Turkey will host an extraordinary meeting of the OIC to discuss the issue. The OIC consists of 57 Muslim states spread across the globe and the decision to hold the unscheduled meeting came after President Erdoğan spoke to leaders from Malaysia, Tunisia, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Indonesia, spokesman İbrahim Kalin said.

Kalın told a news conference in Ankara that the US should back down from a “grave mistake” over Jerusalem’s status. He reiterated Erdoğan’s earlier remarks that Jerusalem’s status was a “red line” for Turkey. “Jerusalem’s current status should be preserved,” Kalın added. “It is true that it is necessary for steps to be taken in order to prevent the grave mistake of introducing Jerusalem as the property of Israel.”

France “does not approve” the US’ “regrettable” move in recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday. Speaking at a news conference in Algiers, Macron said: “It is a regrettable decision, which France does not approve [of] and which contradicts international law and UN Security Council resolutions.”

“The status of Jerusalem is a matter of international security that concerns the entire international community. The status of Jerusalem must be determined by Israelis and Palestinians in negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations,” Macron added.

The French leader recalled “the commitment of France and Europe to the two-state solution, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security in internationally recognized borders with Jerusalem as capital of the two states.”

Macron called “for calm, appeasement, responsibility from all parts” and said his country “is ready to take all the useful initiatives”.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. It annexed the entire city in 1980, claiming all of Jerusalem as its “eternal and undivided” capital in a move never recognized by the international community.

The Palestinians, for their part, hope to establish an independent state of their own in the Gaza Strip and West Bank with East Jerusalem as its capital.

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