Amir calls for protecting Jerusalem’s identity – Erdogan slams ‘terror state’ Israel

ISTANBUL: Leaders and representatives of member states including HH the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pose for a group photo during an Extraordinary Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) yesterday. – AFP

ISTANBUL: Islamic leaders yesterday urged the world to recognize occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned the United States no longer had any role to play in the peace process. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan convened in Istanbul an emergency summit of the world’s main pan-Islamic body, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), seeking a coordinated response to the recognition by US President Donald Trump of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

With the Islamic world itself mired in division, the summit fell well short of agreeing any concrete sanctions against Israel or the United States. But their final statement declared “East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine” and invited “all countries to recognize the State of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its occupied capital”. They declared Trump’s decision “null and void legally” and “a deliberate undermining of all peace efforts” that would give impetus to “extremism and terrorism”.
HH the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah called for efforts to protect the identity of Jerusalem and the sacredness of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Amir reminded participants of the heinous act of setting fire to the Al-Aqsa Mosque some 50 years ago, which led to the formation of the organization. Decades have passed and the threat is now extended to the very identity of the holy city of Jerusalem, Sheikh Sabah said, regarding the US decision to recognize the city as the capital of Israel.

HH the Amir added that the recognition, which involves moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, will directly threaten the stability of the region, which is already affected by the activities of terror organizations. He deemed the US decision as a step that would hinder efforts of security and add tension to the region. The overall global reaction to the decision reflected the world’s rejection of such steps, said Sheikh Sabah, who called for cooperation with various regional partners to pressure the US to back down.

This unilateral decision will have a negative impact on the Mideast peace process, said HH the Amir, who asked the US, the main Middle East peace broker, to reconsider the situation and play a neutral part in the matter. The US should work with the global community to force Israel to implement international resolutions concerning ending the occupation of Palestinian and Arab lands, affirmed the Amir, who stressed that peace will only be achieved by establishing a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as the capital of the country.

He stressed that Kuwait, as a non-permanent member of the UNSC, will work with all Islamic partners to make sure that OIC resolutions concerning the important matter reach the global community. The Amir thanked Erdogan and OIC Secretary General Yousef Al-Othaimeen for organizing the urgent summit, affirming that the US decision, if carried out, will have huge ramifications on the legal and political status of Jerusalem.

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.

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,” said Erdogan, who holds the rotating chairmanship of the OIC. He said all countries who “value international law and fairness” should recognize occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine,” saying Islamic countries would “never give up” on this demand.

Erdogan sought to underline his point with a PowerPoint map presentation, flashing a laser pointer at how Palestinian territory had shrunk since the 1948 creation of Israel. “The real proprietor of these lands is Palestine,” he told the final press conference. “Mr Trump wants all this to be Israel. This is the product of an evangelist and Zionist mentality,” said Erdogan.
Using unusually strong language and bitterly anti-American rhetoric, Abbas warned that there could be “no peace or stability” in the Middle East until Jerusalem is recognized as the capital of a Palestinian state. Moreover, he said that with Trump’s move the United States had withdrawn itself from a traditional role as the mediator in the search for Mideast peace. “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.

The final statement from the OIC echoed this sentiment, saying Trump’s move was “an announcement of the US administration’s withdrawal from its role as sponsor of peace” in the Middle East. Erdogan added that there can no longer be “any question” of the United States being a mediator. “This period is now over,” he said bluntly. Successive US administrations have sought unsuccessfully to broker a final peace deal since the 1990s Oslo accords. Trump, too, is working on such an offer through his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Abbas 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.

But bridging the gaps in a Muslim political community that includes archrivals Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran was always a tall order, 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, were unlikely to want to risk their key relationship with Washington for the sake of an anti-Washington OIC statement.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Jordanian King Abdullah II and Lebanese President Michel Aoun were among the heads of state present, 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 recognize 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. 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. – Agencies