East Jerusalem declared capital of Palestine by 57 Muslim nations
Islamic leaders sign letter condemning Donald Trump and say US has relinquished its role as Middle East peace broker
Leaders of Muslim nations have declared East Jerusalem the “occupied capital” of a Palestinian state, in a rebuke to Donald Trump’s announcement that the US will recognise the Holy City as the capital of Israel.
Trump’s decision last week drew condemnation from across the Muslim world, as well as from western leaders, the EU and UN, and sparked mass protests.
Meeting in Istanbul, the 57 Muslim nations that make up the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation signed a communique declaring Trump’s decision “null and void”, and claimed the move signalled Washington’s withdrawal from its role in the Middle East peace process.
Addressing an emergency meeting of the group, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that “Jerusalem is and always will be the capital of Palestine” and described Trump’s decision as “the greatest crime”.
He also repeated calls for the UN to take over leadership of the peace process, “since [the US] is biased in favour of Israel”.
Revered by Jews, Muslims and Christians, Jerusalem was divided by the UN as part of the post-war partition of Israel and Palestine. In 1967, Arab East Jerusalem was captured by Israeli forces during the Six Day War and later annexed in an action not recognised by the US, until now.
The issue of Jerusalem has dominated Palestinian-Israeli relations over the past half century and remains the major stumbling block to peace in the region.
Following last week’s announcement, which was applauded by Israel, Trump said his decision was nothing more than “a recognition of reality” and would not affect any peace agreement. Yet this has not stopped some of his staunchest Middle Eastern allies, including Saudi Arabia, from expressing concern at its potential repercussions.
King Abdullah of Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel more than 20 years ago, told the Istanbul summit he rejected any attempt to change the status quo of Jerusalem and its holy sites. Iran, which has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel, said the Muslim world should overcome internal problems through dialogue in order to unite against a common enemy.
However, says the BBC’s Mark Lowen, “some Muslim leaders are more pro-Trump than others and there is little chance that this summit will change US policy”.