Palestinians, Saudi Arabia, Arab League and European Union warn changing Jerusalem's status could scuttle peace efforts
President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, gestures as he gives a speech at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) in Ankara, on December 5, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN)
The status of Jerusalem is a “red line” for Muslims and changing it could prompt Turkey to cut its ties with Israel, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Tuesday, as US President Donald Trump reportedly geared up to recognize the city as the Jewish state’s capital.
Erdogan said Turkey, which currently holds the chairmanship of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, would immediately call a summit meeting of the pan-Islamic group if Trump went ahead with the move on Wednesday, and “set the entire Islamic world in motion.”
“Mr. Trump! Jerusalem is a red line for Muslims,” he said in a raucous televised speech to his ruling party that was greeted with chants and applause.
Turkey, Erdogan said, would “follow this struggle to the very last moment with determination and we could even go right up to cutting our diplomatic relations with Israel.”
Officials in Jerusalem rejected Erdogan’s threat.
Nabil Shaath, the commissioner for external relations of the Fatah movement, seen in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, January 18, 2012 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Meanwhile, a senior Palestinian official warned that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would spell the end of Trump’s nascent Israeli-Palestinian peace push.
“That totally destroys any chance that he will play a role as an honest broker,” Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, told journalists on Tuesday.
“That takes away… the deal of the century,” he added, referring to Trump’s pledge to clinch the long-elusive peace deal.
Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit also warned of the “danger” of the United States recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or relocating its embassy there, calling on Washington to reconsider.
Abul Gheit told Arab government delegates that they had decided to meet in Cairo “given the danger of this matter, if it were to happen, and the possible negative consequences not only for the situation in Palestine but also for the Arab and Islamic region.”
US President Donald Trump visits the Western Wall, May 22, 2017, in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Saudi Arabia, a major partner to the American efforts to revive the peace process, added its voice, expressing “grave and deep concern” over the possible US plans.
If Trump decides to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital it would reverse years of US policy, even if he did not move the US embassy.
“Saudi Arabia (expresses) grave and deep concern over reports that the US administration intends to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem,” the official Saudi Press Agency said, citing a foreign ministry source.
“This step will have serious implications and will further complicate the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It will also obstruct the ongoing efforts to revive the peace process.”
The European Union also noted possible “serious repercussions” of the move.
The EU, which supports a two-state solution to the conflict, warned against doing anything that would jeopardize the peace process.
“Since early this year, the European Union was clear in its expectation that there can be reflection on the consequences that any decision or unilateral action affecting Jerusalem’s status could have,” EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini’s office said in a statement.
“It might have serious repercussions on public opinion in large parts of the world,” it added. “The focus should therefore remain on the efforts to restart the peace process and avoiding any action that would undermine such efforts.”
Trump is expected to make an announcement on Jerusalem in a major policy speech Wednesday.
The mercurial president has yet to make his final decision, officials said, but is expected to stop short of moving the embassy to Jerusalem outright, a central campaign pledge that has been postponed once already by the new administration.
Facing dark warnings of a historic misstep and widespread unrest, Trump on Monday delayed a decision on whether to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. The White House said the president would miss a deadline on the decision, after a frantic 48 hours of public warnings from allies and private phone calls between world leaders.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the most contentious issues of the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel gained control of East Jerusalem during the Six Day War in 1967 and extended its sovereignty there in 1980, an effective annexation that remains unrecognized by the international community. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.