Erdogan threatens to cut ties with Israel over US move on Jerusalem
December 05 2017 05:32 PM
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, gestures as he gives a speech during an AK party's group meeting at the Grand
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, gestures as he gives a speech during an AK party's group meeting at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) in Ankara. AFP


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to break off diplomatic ties with Israel if US President Donald Trump goes ahead with his campaign pledge to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state.

"Mr Trump, Jerusalem is a red line for Muslims," Erdogan said on Tuesday in a speech to lawmakers from his Islamic-conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) in parliament in Ankara.

"It could go so far that we will break off our diplomatic ties with Israel," Erdogan said.

Turkey established diplomatic relations with Israel more than 60 years ago, though the ties have seen ups and downs, largely over the Palestinian issue. Turkey is a US ally in NATO, though it has seen its relationship with Washington suffer in the past year.

In 2016, Israel and Turkey reappointed ambassadors after a six-year break due to a lethal Israeli raid on an aid flotilla to Gaza.

If Trump did go ahead with the move, Erdogan said he would call a summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which Turkey currently heads, in Istanbul.

"At this summit we will mobilize the whole of the Islamic world," Erdogan said.

Internationally, there is near uniform consensus on refraining from recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, leaving such a decision for a time in the future when the Israelis and Palestinians reach a final peace deal.

Nearly all countries who have diplomatic relations with Israel – a group that excludes a large number of Arab and Muslim states – keep their embassies in Tel Aviv.

Jerusalem is claimed by both the Israelis and Palestinians as their capital.

Israel considers Jerusalem to be its unified capital and in 1967 annexed the eastern half of the city, which the Palestinians say must be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

"Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for the past 3,000 years and the capital of Israel for the past 70 years," an Israeli official said on condition of anonymity, amid the flurry of remarks by high-ranking politicians around the world.

After meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said "a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states."

She added that any action that could undermine the so-called two-state solution, which envisages an independent state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, "must absolutely be avoided."

Jean Asselborn, the foreign minister of Luxembourg, said that a possible US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital was likely to "add fuel to the fire."

"This can become very, very explosive," he said.

Jordan's King Abdullah is due to meet with Erdogan in Turkey on Wednesday, as part of a diplomatic push to stall any decision by Trump - which possibly could be made this week - that would affect the status quo.

Both Jordan and Egypt, the only two Arab states with diplomatic ties to Israel, have warned against moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said that the only solution to the issue of Jerusalem would be through "direct negotiations" between the Israelis and Palestinians.

"Anything that escalates the crisis during these times is counterproductive," Gabriel said.

Israel has been making diplomatic advances of its own in recent years, courting nations in Asia and Africa once seen as ambivalent or antagonistic towards the Jewish State.

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