Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas Wednesday slammed the United States for recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel at an emergency summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation marked by the absence of top leadership of Saudi Arabia and its allies.
Erdogan opened in Istanbul an emergency summit of the OIC, seeking to marshal Muslim leaders towards a coordinated response to the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, news agency AFP reported.
Abbas warned that the United States has lost its role as the mediator in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians as a result of the move by US President Donald Trump.
Erdogan – who regards himself a champion of the Palestinian cause – described Israel as a state defined by “occupation” and “terror”.
“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.
“America, you might think you are strong, you might have weapons, nuclear weapons, you might have many aircraft,” he said.
“But none of this means you are strong. You are only strong if you are right. The US is buttering the bread of fanatics with this decision.”
Jordan’s king, Abdullah, was seen vigorously nodding in agreement with Erdogan’s remarks, showing the depth of unease among traditional regional US allies.
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 told the meeting.
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.
His top diplomat early today 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.
“This step taken by the US legitimises the occupation,” of the Palestinian territories, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavsuoglu told a meeting of OIC foreign ministers.
“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.
But bridging the gaps in a Muslim political community that includes arch rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran will be a far from easy task, let alone announcing any concrete measures agreed between the 57 OIC member states, according to AFP.
“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.”
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.
However 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.
The Saudis sent only their minister for religious affairs to the summit. Saudi allies Egypt and Bahrain followed suit by sending representatives at the foreign ministerial level only, according to a report in the Middleeasteye.com.
Bahrain sent its justice minister, while the UAE sent a representative of its foreign ministry.
This pointed to the same divisions that have emerged – apart from the traditional Saudi-Iran rift – since the Saudi-led bloc imposed a blockade on neighbour Qatar.
Qatar and Iran were represented at the OIC summit at the highest level with the participation of the emir and president respectively.
Arab countries have so far condemned Israel without announcing any concrete measures.
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 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.