ISTANBUL • Turkey called on Muslim countries to stop other nations from following the US and moving their embassies in Israel to Jerusalem, as it opened a meeting in Istanbul.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called a summit of the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) after Israeli forces this week killed dozens of Palestinian protesters who were demonstrating in Gaza against the opening of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.
Turkey has been one of the most vocal critics of the US move and the violence in Gaza, declaring three days of mourning. Mr Erdogan has described the actions of the Israeli forces as a "genocide" and Israel as a "terrorist state".
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in the opening address of the OIC meeting yesterday: "We will emphasise the status of the Palestine issue for our community, and that we will not allow the status of the historic city to be changed.
"We must prevent other countries following the US example."
The events in Gaza have also sparked a diplomatic row between Turkey and Israel, with both countries expelling each other's senior diplomats this week.
The plight of Palestinians resonates with many Turks, particularly the nationalist and religious voters who form the base of support for Mr Erdogan, who is running for re-election next month.
Thousands of people massed in Istanbul yesterday for a rally called by Mr Erdogan to show solidarity with the Palestinians and condemn Israel.
Despite the rhetoric, Israel was the 10th-biggest market for Turkish exports last year, buying some US$3.4 billion (S$4.6 billion) of goods, according to statistics from the International Monetary Fund.
"We have excellent economic ties with Turkey. And these relations are very important for both sides," Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon told Israel Radio yesterday, when asked if Israel should break ties with Turkey.
US President Donald Trump's decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians, reversed decades of US policy, upsetting the Arab world and Western allies.
Guatemala this week became the second country to move its embassy to the holy city, and Paraguay said it would follow suit this month.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Iranian television after arriving in Istanbul that "Israel's recent crimes in Palestine and the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem need serious coordination between Islamic countries and the international community".
The killing of dozens of Palestinians this week by Israeli forces marked the bloodiest day for Palestinians since the 2014 Gaza war. Israel has said it is acting in self-defence to protect its borders and communities.
The United Nations Security Council will begin talks on Monday on a Kuwait-drafted resolution that condemns Israeli force against Palestinian civilians and calls for an "international protection mission" to be deployed to the occupied territories.
The US is likely to veto the move if it is put to a vote by Kuwait, diplomats said. A resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by the US, Britain, France, Russia or China to be adopted.