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13 Dec, 2017 09:26

Muslim leaders call for recognition of East Jerusalem as Palestinian capital

Leaders of Islamic countries have called for East Jerusalem to be recognized as the capital of Palestine, stating that Donald Trump’s move last week had voided the status of the US as a mediator in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

The Muslim leaders had gathered in Istanbul, Turkey on Wednesday for an emergency summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). They condemned the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The controversial move was branded “an attack” on the rights of Palestinian people in the final declaration by the summit.

The declaration states that the US decision on Jerusalem is equivalent to its withdrawal from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, NTV broadcaster reported. In its final declaration, the OIC formally recognized East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, according to the broadcaster.

“The US administration should give up its role in the peace process, and if the US does not step back, it will be responsible for all the consequences,” the declaration states, as quoted by NTV.

The organization promised to take the discussion on Trump’s Jerusalem move to the UN General Assembly if the UN Security Council fails to take any action.

While speaking to the press after the summit, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas vowed to go to the UN Security Council to seek full UN membership for the country. Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in his turn, stated that the Jerusalem issue “will be our red line for eternity,” adding that Trump’s “illegitimate and immoral” decision would only bring the region into a “circle of fire.” Erdogan also condemned the “violence” conducted by Israel, showing photos of Palestinian children at the hands of Israeli soldiers as proof.

Earlier on Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu voiced similar calls to “all other countries.”

"Firstly, the Palestinian state must be recognized by all other countries. We must all strive together for this," Cavusoglu said, as foreign ministers convened ahead of the full summit meeting in Istanbul. "We must encourage other countries to recognize the Palestinian state on the basis of its 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital," he added.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has described Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital as Trump’s “gift to the Zionist movement,” noting that extremists could use the move to “turn a political struggle into a religious one.”

The US president's controversial decision triggered protests across Muslim countries amid warnings from Ankara that the move would plunge the world "into a fire with no end."

Abbas said on Wednesday that he would seek a United Nations Security Council resolution to nullify Washington’s decision on Jerusalem, calling it the "greatest crime" and a striking violation of international law.

"Jerusalem is and always will be the capital of Palestine," he told the emergency meeting of Muslim leaders in Turkey, adding that the US was giving away Jerusalem as if it were an American city. "It crosses all the red lines," he said, as quoted by Reuters.

Earlier this week, Iranian Defense Minister General Amir Hatami also noted that Washington would have to bear responsibility for its decision. “[Trump‘s] move will hasten the destruction of the Zionist regime [Israel] and will double unity among Muslims,” General Hatami told a meeting of senior military officials on Monday. Washington’s “anti-security decision” is ratcheting up tensions in the region, he added.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had also condemned the US move, calling it a sign of “weakness and incompetence” on the part of Washington. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he considered it a “new conspiracy” against the Islamic world.

UK-based political analyst Chris Bambery told RT that any proclamations at the summit will not swing the balance of power in the region.

“I think we are increasingly going to see a questioning of the two-state solution in Palestine, which now feels anger,” Bambery told RT. “But the problem is that as ever the failure of the Arab states to stand by the Palestinians. While there may be some fine words, but they have not really put those words into action. Which means that the Palestinians will be left alone to face the mightiest military in the region.”

The US decision marks the first time since the UN-brokered partition of Palestine in 1947 that a president of America – a member of the Middle East Quartet (a well-known foursome of world powers mediating in the peace process between Palestine and Israel) – has backtracked from the established policy that the issue of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital should be kept off the table.