Leaders and top officials from Islamic nations gathered in Turkey on Wednesday for a summit that is expected to forge a unified stance against President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The summit of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation could also offer the Muslim world’s strongest response yet to Washington’s move. Turkey, the summit host, has sharply criticized what it described as weak Arab response so far on the issue of contested Jerusalem.
Turkey has also called for other countries to recognize a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Jerusalem’s status is at the core of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Trump’s Dec. 6 announcement was widely perceived as siding with Israel. It also raised fears of more bloodshed as past crises over Jerusalem had triggered violent outbreaks.
Turkey, which currently heads the OIC, called for the Istanbul summit — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been among the most vocal critic of Trump’s announcement.
In opening remarks Wednesday to a pre-summit meeting, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said the OIC nations “are here to say ‘stop’ to tyranny.”
He told OIC foreign ministers that the U.S. decision aims to “legitimize Israel’s attempt to occupy Jerusalem.”
“They expect the Islamic nation to remain silent,” he said. “But we will never be silent. This bullying eliminates the possibility of peace and the grounds for shared life. The U.S.’ decision is null for us.
“We, who recognize east Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, should encourage other countries to recognize the Palestinian state within the foundation of the 1967 borders and the capital as East Jerusalem,” Cavusoglu said.
Most countries around the world have not recognized Israel’s 1967 annexation of east Jerusalem. Under a long-standing international consensus, the fate of the city is to be determined in negotiations.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun, Jordanian King Abdullah II and top ministers of numerous nations were to attend the gathering in Istanbul.
In an emergency meeting in Cairo last weekend, Arab foreign ministers demanded that the United States rescind Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
In a resolution long on rhetoric but short on concrete actions, the ministers also called for the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution condemning Trump’s decision, but acknowledged that Washington would most likely veto it.
Israel has considered Jerusalem its capital since the state’s establishment in 1948 and sees the city as the ancient capital of the Jewish people. In the 1967 Mideast war, Israel captured the city’s eastern sector and later annexed it in a move that is not recognized internationally.
The Palestinians equally lay claim to Jerusalem and want the eastern part of the city as capital of their future state. Some 200,000 Palestinians live in that part of the city and Palestinians claim a deep cultural, historical and religious connection to the city.
The Old City, located in east Jerusalem, is home to sites holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims. These include the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site.