Leaders of Muslim-majority countries decry US decision on Jerusalem

(Left to right) Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Az
(Left to right) Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev attend a family photo session at the extraordinary summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey on Dec 13 2017.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (far right) greeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday during the OIC summit in Istanbul. In a communique, the OIC said the US decision on Jerusalem was "null and void legally", and "a deliberate und
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (far right) greeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday during the OIC summit in Istanbul. In a communique, the OIC said the US decision on Jerusalem was "null and void legally", and "a deliberate undermining of all peace efforts".PHOTO: EPA-EFE

They urge global community to recognise Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital

Leaders of Muslim-majority countries yesterday denounced the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and called on Washington to revoke its decision.

They also urged the international community to recognise the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, and to press on with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to achieve a two-state solution.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who called the emergency summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, denounced United States President Donald Trump's unilateral decision on Jerusalem as unlawful and a reward for Israel as an occupying "terror" state.

"I'm inviting countries who value international law and fairness to recognise occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine," Mr Erdogan told leaders of the 57-nation grouping.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah were among those at the summit, held amid strong global reactions to the US move.

In a communique, the OIC, which Turkey now chairs, said the US decision was "null and void legally", and "a deliberate undermining of all peace efforts, an impetus to extremism and terrorism".

The OIC called on member states to impose political and economic restrictions on countries and businesses that recognise Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem.

Mr Joko, in his speech, said the US decision diminishes hope for lasting peace and must be rejected. He outlined a six-point proposal for the OIC, including a call for countries with embassies in Tel Aviv not to follow the US decision and move their mission to Jerusalem.

He also invited OIC members to work together to boost humanitarian aid, capacity building and economic cooperation for the Palestinians, as Indonesia has pledged to do.

"The people of Indonesia, and I'm sure the people of OIC states... hope that this summit can produce optimal results (for) Palestine," he said.

Datuk Seri Najib said Jerusalem's final status "must be resolved through bilateral negotiations between Palestine and Israel under the framework of the two-state solution".

The US decision was "akin to adding fuel to... a combustible situation", he added. "We fear that this is a situation waiting to explode as tensions continue to escalate in the region."

"We need to reverse negative trends and create conditions for peace talks, in order to advance the prospects for a two-state solution. We must be reminded that Al-Quds is sacred to Muslims and is also a place of great religious significance for other faiths," Mr Najib said, using the Arabic name for Jerusalem.

"We should therefore do all we can to preserve peace in the city and ensure access for worshippers of all faiths."

The meeting follows one by Arab foreign ministers in Cairo who demanded the US retract its decision.

Yesterday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told OIC leaders that there could be no peace in the Middle East until East Jerusalem was recognised as the capital of an independent Palestine. He also warned that extremists could turn a political struggle into a religious one, and said Palestinians will not accept any role for the US in the peace process "from now on".

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made a veiled reference to reports of peace proposals involving Saudi Arabia, saying: "Some countries in our region are in cooperation with the United States and the Zionist regime in determining the fate of Palestine."

However, Saudi Arabia's King Salman, who did not attend the summit and was represented by his State Minister for Foreign Affairs, said Palestinians have the right to establish East Jerusalem as their capital.

 

"The kingdom has called for a political solution to resolve regional crises, foremost of which is the Palestinian issue and the restoration of the Palestinian people's legitimate rights, including the right to establish their independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital," King Salman said in a speech to his Consultative Council yesterday, Agence France-Presse reported.

Israel captured East Jerusalem after the Six-Day War in 1967, and declared the city as its capital in 1980, an act rejected by the international community. The latest US move is widely seen as effectively derailing a 25-year-old peace process.

Mr Trump's announcement last Wednesday - when he also said he would move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem - has been met with angry protests, including across Asia, over the past week.

The US President also signed a national security waiver, which will allow him to delay the move of the embassy for six more months.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told his staff that the move is not going to be "anything that happens right away... Probably no earlier than three years out, and that's pretty ambitious".

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2017, with the headline 'OIC leaders decry US decision on Jerusalem'. Print Edition | Subscribe