Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (L) address the media at the Presidential Palace in Ankara January 12, 2015..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hopes to bring together Muslim countries in Istanbul on Wednesday as part of Ankara’s response to Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This is likely to ramp up tensions in Jerusalem after the Turkish president on December 10 called Israel a “state of occupation and a terror state,” according to Hurriyet Daily News. The Palestinian Authority’s Jerusalem governor, meanwhile, called on countries that will attend the meeting to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.
On December 6, Erdogan invited the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to an emergency meeting in Istanbul. Ibrahim Kalin, the president’s spokesperson, said Erdogan had spoken with PA President Mahmoud Abbas and other Muslim heads of state in Qatar, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Tunisia and Indonesia.
Ankara was outraged by the US president’s Jerusalem decision. “We will continue to stand with the oppressed. We will use every opportunity we have for our first qibla, Jerusalem,” the Turkish president said on Sunday, according to Turkish media, referring to Islamic prayers and the holy city. Turkey has accused the US of being a “partner in bloodshed,” and Turkish media have been awash with a photo of a blindfolded Palestinian teenager being led away by IDF troops.
This comes in the context of Turkish anger over the US support for the Syrian Democratic Forces in eastern Syria, which Turkey sees as a partner of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, as well as the Kurdistan Workers Party, which it and other countries view as a terrorist organization. In October, the US and Turkey were embroiled in a controversy over visas and the two countries have strained relations.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is scheduled to attend the Istanbul summit and deliver a speech, Iranian media reported. He is scheduled to leave for Turkey the night of December 12. Erdogan and Rouhani met in Sochi with Russian President Vladimir Putin in late November. The Jerusalem issue has united some in the OIC. Last year in Istanbul, Iran was criticized for “interference” in the region and for “support for terrorism.”
The President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, is likely to attend, as is Lebanese President Michael Aoun. King Abdullah of Jordan, who was just in Turkey, is also expected to attend.
The announcement of the Istanbul meeting comes two days after the Arab League condemned the US’s Jerusalem decision. On Monday, Abbas went to Cairo to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Paris.
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Adnan al-Husayni, the PA’s designated governor for Jerusalem, urged the OIC meeting in Istanbul to recognize Jerusalem as “the capital of Palestine.” He claimed such a move would be an answer to Trump’s speech. “It can have a very strong impact on the political level.”
It is still unclear whether some of the key leaders in the region will attend the Istanbul meeting or send a high-level representative. On December 11, Sisi met with Putin in Cairo after Putin had just come from a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad in which he ordered some troops withdrawn from Syria. Saudi Arabia’s attendance will also be key to any important decisions made in Istanbul.
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