AMIR CALLS FOR PROTECTING IDENTITY OF JERUSALEM
ISTANBUL, Dec 13, (Agencies): Islamic leaders on Wednesday urged the world to recognise 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 Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), seeking a coordinated response to the recognition by US President Donald Trump of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, meanwhile, called for efforts to protect the identity of Jerusalem and the sacredness of Al-Aqsa Mosque. Delivering his speech to the emergency summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, His Highness 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, His Highness Sheikh Sabah said regarding the US decision to recognize the city as the capital of Israel.
His Highness the Amir added that the recognition, which involves moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, will directly threat the stability of the region which is already affected by the activities of terror organizations. His Highness the Amir deemed the US decision as a step that would hinder efforts for security and add tension to the region.
The overall global reaction to the decision reflected the world’s rejection of such steps, said His Highness 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 His Highness 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 His Highness the Amir who stressed that peace will only be achieved by establishing a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as a 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 would reach the global community.
His Highness the Amir thanked the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and OIC Secretary General Dr 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. 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 recognise 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.” 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 recognise occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine,” saying Islamic countries would “never give up” on this demand. Using unusually strong language, 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. 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. 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 arch rivals 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 Amirs 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.
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.