OIC declares East Jerusalem as capital of Palestine

Istanbul: The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Wednesday 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.

A draft declaration adopted by the extraordinary session considered Washington’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel “as a sign of US withdrawal from its role as a sponsor of the Middle East peace.”

Addressing the extraordinary summit, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the world to recognise occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, as Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas warned there could be no peace in the Middle East until such a step is taken.

Erdogan had convened the emergency summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, seeking a coordinated response to the recognition of Jerusalem by US President Donald Trump as Israel’s capital.

Erdogan denounced Israel as a state defined by “occupation” and “terror”, in a new diatribe against the Israeli leadership. “With this decision, Israel has been rewarded for all the terrorist activities it has carried out. It is Trump who bestowed this award,” 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.

In an angry address, Abbas warned that the United States has lost its role as mediator in the peace process between Israel and Palestinians, denouncing Washington as biased in favour of the Jewish state.

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 said.

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.

Erdogan, whose country holds the rotating chairmanship of the OIC, is hoping to unite the Muslim leaders for a tough final statement on the Trump move. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu early Wednesday indicated that Ankara would be pushing for the OIC states to, in a counter move, recognise East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. “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.

Addressing the summit, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said a sovereign homeland for the Palestinian people with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital remained the only road ap for the Ummah and the OIC. “We are at the watershed moment again. The question on every Muslim mind today would be whether we can rise above our differences, stand united and give hope to our people, or once again adopt declarations which cannot be translated into effective actions,” he told the gathering of heads of state and government of more than 26 Islamic countries. He said the US decision is a blatant attempt to set in motion steps to change the historic and lawful status of the Holy City.

Abbasi urged the United States to rescind the decision and fully comply with all the UN Security Council resolutions and recommit unequivocally to the two-state solution. “On behalf of the people and Government of Pakistan, I wish to reiterate our strong condemnation of this decision,” he said and added that the international community has the opportunity to uphold the principles of justice and the rule of law.

He said Pakistan calls upon the United Nations Security Council to play its role as envisaged under the UN Charter, as its credibility would be questioned if it did not live up to its primary role in maintaining international peace and security. Abbasi said both the houses of Pakistan’s parliament have unanimously echoed these sentiments and “we all stand firmly behind the Palestinian people and their just struggle.”

Speaking on the occasion, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said the US recognition of Jerusalem undermined its role as an honest broker in the peace process. He said President Donald Trump’s decision of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is contrary to the international legality. He asked the participants that if the UN Security Council is unable to act, then the OIC should call for a UN General Assembly emergency session.

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 and presidents of Afghanistan and Indonesia.

“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 is the “right” of the Palestinians to establish “their independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital”.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was also in attendance and was 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.

Meanwhile, Pakistan and Jordan expressed deep concern over the implications of the US recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and to move its embassy there. The two leaders agreed in a meeting between Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and King Abdullah II of Jordan on the sidelines of the OIC summit here. The two leaders underscored that the decision is contrary to the resolutions of the UN Security Council and General Assembly, and undermined international legitimacy. The decision was rejected by more than 1.5 billion Muslims of the world. The two leaders discussed the importance of further strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries. The prime minister invited King Abdullah II to visit Pakistan. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and Pakistan’s Ambassador to Turkey Syrus Sajjad Qazi also attended the meeting.

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