First Published: 2017-12-13

Erdogan urges world to recognise Jerusalem as Palestinian capital
Palestinian leader warns ‘biased’ US has lost its role as mediator in peace process between Israel and Palestinians.
Middle East Online

Abbas: Jerusalem is and will forever be the capital of the Palestinian state

ISTANBUL - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday urged the world to recognise occupied East Jerusalem as the "capital of Palestine", as Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas warned there could be no peace in the Middle East until such a step was made.

Erdogan convened in Istanbul an emergency summit of the world's main pan-Islamic body the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), seeking a coordinated response to the recognition by US President Donald Trump of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

In an angry address, Abbas warned that the United States has lost its role as the mediator in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, denouncing Washington as biased in favour of the Jewish state.

Erdogan -- who regards himself a champion of the Palestinian cause -- denounced Israel as a state defined by "occupation" and "terror", in a new diatribe against the Israeli leadership.

"With this decision, Israel was rewarded for all the terrorist activities it has carried out. It is Trump who bestowed this award even," he said.

Erdogan added: "I am inviting the countries who value international law and fairness to recognise occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine," saying Islamic countries would "never give up" on this demand.

- 'No more role for US' -

Abbas warned that there could be "no peace or stability" in the Middle East until Jerusalem is recognised as the capital of a Palestinian state.

"Jerusalem is and will forever be the capital of the Palestinian state... There will be no peace, no stability without that," Abbas said.

He slammed the recognition by Trump of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as a "gift" to the "Zionist movement" as if he "were giving away an American city," adding that Washington no longer had any role to play in the Middle East peace process.

"We do not accept any role of the United States in the political process from now on. Because it is completely biased towards Israel," he said.

Erdogan, whose country holds the rotating chairmanship of the OIC, will be hoping to unite often feuding Muslim leaders into a tough final statement on the move by Trump.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu early Wednesday indicated that Ankara would be pushing for OIC states to, in a counter move, recognise East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

"We will never be silent," he said, urging countries to recognise Palestine on the basis of its 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital.

- Saudi snub? -

But bridging the gaps in a Muslim political community that includes arch rivals Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran is far from easy, let alone announcing any concrete measures agreed between the 57 OIC member states.

Several key players, like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are unlikely to want to risk their key relationship with Washington for the sake of an anti-Washington OIC statement.

Arab countries have so far condemned Israel without announcing any concrete measures.

Aaron Stein, resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, said he believed Muslim leaders would merely "issue a boiler-plate condemnation".

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Jordanian King Abdullah II and Lebanese President Michel Aoun are among the heads of state attending, as well as the emirs of Qatar and Kuwait and presidents of Afghanistan and Indonesia.

The level of Saudi representation -- critical if the final statement is to carry long-term credibility -- was only at the level of a senior foreign ministry official.

"Some countries in our region are in cooperation with the United States and the Zionist regime and determining the fate of Palestine," seethed Rouhani, whose country does not recognise Israel and has dire relations with Saudi Arabia.

But as the summit was being held, Saudi King Salman in Riyadh echoed the calls over Jerusalem, saying it was the "right" of the Palestinians to establish "their independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital".

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and war crimes, was also in attendance and warmly greeted by Erdogan.

A surprise guest was Venezuela's leftist President Nicolas Maduro whose country has no significant Muslim population but is a bitter critic of US policy.

Jerusalem's status is perhaps the most sensitive issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel sees the entire city as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern sector, which the international community regards as annexed by Israel as the capital of their future state.

Trump's announcement last week prompted an outpouring of anger in the Muslim and Arab world, where tens of thousands of people took to the streets to denounce the Jewish state and show solidarity with the Palestinians.

The decision sparked protests in Palestinian territories, with four Palestinians killed so far in clashes or Israeli air strikes in response to rocket fire from Gaza and hundreds wounded.

 

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