Thu Dec 14 2017, 3:40:10 +03

Jerusalem 'red line' for all Muslims, Turkish President Erdogan warns

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(Istanbul-AlummahWorld-Rabi'I, 18, 1439H) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized Tuesday a possible White House-decision to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognize the city as the Israeli capital, saying that Jerusalem is a "red line" for all Muslims, and that Turkey could go as far as severing all diplomatic ties with Israel if the U.S. moved ahead with the decision. "I want to express once again my sadness about the news that the U.S. is preparing to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Jerusalem, Mr. Trump, is a red line for Muslims," Erdogan said and suggested that Turkey could even sever all diplomatic ties with Israel.

"If this goes too far we may cut off diplomatic relations with Israel. We once again warn the U.S. against a decision that would only deepen the problems in the region," he added. Erdogan stressed that the decision would come as a heavy blow amid the human rights violations and oppression in the region. He said Turkey will follow the developments until the very end as the term president of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). "If such a step is to be taken, we will gather the OIC leaders in Istanbul within five to 10 days."

Underscoring that this was no ordinary development, the president said, "We will certainly continue our struggle here until the very last moment."

U.S. policy for decades has been to reserve judgment on both claims until the parties agree on Jerusalem's status in a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, as part of his election campaign, U.S. President Donald Trump pledged to relocate the country's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

While Israel considers Jerusalem its capital, the world opposes this, saying that the city's status should be determined in peace talks with Palestinians, who consider the eastern part of the city as their future capital.

The sensitivity of the Jerusalem site comes from the fact that it is to Jews known as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary). The site includes the al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, and the golden Dome of the Rock. It was also the site of an ancient Jewish temple, the holiest place in Judaism.

Israel began occupying East Jerusalem, which includes the holy area, during a 1967 war. However, the Waqf, a Muslim religious body, manages the Islamic sites within the compound.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoglu said yesterday that moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem would bring chaos instead of peace to the region.

In the case of approval, "the peace process would be fully halted and such a step, first of all, is against international law and international treaties," Cavusoglu said during an event in Albania's Tirana.

Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said yesterday that the U.S. move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital was extremely alarming. He noted that such a decision would contradict international agreements and United Nations resolutions.

In a series of messages on his official Twitter account, Kalın said the decision was also against Jerusalem's historical and religious status. He highlighted that such a step would completely destroy the already fragile peace process in the Middle East and create new tensions and conflict.

"We hope that the U.S. administration does not make this calamitous mistake," Kalın said, adding that the protection of Jerusalem and the Haram al-Sharif was critical.

The leader of Turkey's main opposition, the Republican People's Party (CHP), yesterday also voiced criticism over the issue.

"Jerusalem is the keystone of the Middle East," Kemal Kılıçdaroglu told a rally in the capital Ankara marking Women's Rights Day.

"If they [the U.S] make a wrong decision on Jerusalem, it will lead to more blood and tears in the Middle East," he added.

Kılıcdaroglu also voiced his support for Turkey's "Palestinian brothers," saying, "no one can stop our support for them," he said.

Meanwhile, Israeli officials noted yesterday that Jerusalem has been the "capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years and Israel's capital for 70 years, regardless of whether Erdogan recognizes this or not."

They spoke on condition of anonymity because the government has not yet commented formally.