Yesterday’s emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul ended with a declaration signed by all 57 member states recognising East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, and inviting the rest of the world to do the same. The summit was called by Turkey’s President Erdoğan in response to US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last week.
Dozens of heads of state and foreign ministers from Muslim-majority countries around the world descended on Istanbul on Wednesday, 13 December, to discuss the Jerusalem Crisis. Among them were:
- Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev
- Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ President Mustafa Akinci
- Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani
- Bangladesh’s President Abdul Hamid
- Brunei’s Sultan Hasanal Bolkiah
- Comoros’ President Azali Assoumani
- Djibouti’s Prime Minister Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed
- Guinea’s President Alpha Condé
- Kazakhstan’s Senate Chairman Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
- Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah
- Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo
- Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani
- Jordan’s King Abdullah II
- Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun
- Libya’s Chairman of the Presidential Council Fayez al-Sarraj
- Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak
- Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi
- Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani
- Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir
- Uzbekistan’s Chairman of the Senate Nigmatilla Yuldashev
- Yemen’s President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi
- Venezuela’s President Nicola Maduro
Noticeably absent were the leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who are currently involved in their own Gulf crisis with Turkey-backed Qatar. The three states did, however, all send government ministers to represent them, and were signatories to the Istanbul OIC declaration.
During the day-long summit, many leaders spoke out against the actions of the US and Israel. President Erdoğan slammed Israel, calling it “a terror state”, while Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and Jordan’s King Abdullah, a close US ally, also criticised Washington’s move. In his speech to the OIC, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the UN to take over the peace talks, as it was now “unacceptable” for the US to continue as mediator “since it is biased in favour of Israel”.
The talks concluded with the Muslim world uniting to issue a statement in the evening. Dubbed ‘Freedom for Jerusalem’, the OIC declaration described the US President’s announcement as “unlawful”, and “null and void on the basis of history, laws and conscience,” and called on the Trump administration to withdraw their decision.
The OIC statement made clear that it was, “not possible to give up on an independent and sovereign Palestine state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.” Member states confirmed that, “we recognise the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, and call the world to recognise East Jerusalem as the occupied capital of Palestine.”
Jerusalem is an sacred city for three major religions and home to numerous holy sites, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Efforts to destroy Al-Aqsa Mosque in 1969 by an Australian Christian led to the formation of the OIC, which its very first meeting in Rabat, Morocco. The mosque was set alight by Michael Denis Rohan on 21 Aug. 1969, causing huge damage to the shrine and completely destroying its 1,000-year-old pulpit. OIC has presented itself as the site’s protector ever since, although in practice is the Israelis who hold authority over the site.
The city has been occupied by the state of Israel for the past fifty years. They captured Jerusalem from its then occupiers Jordan during the 1967 War, and has regarded the entire city as its indivisible capital, although its sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been internationally recognised, with the embassies of foreign states located in Tel Aviv. Last week, President Trump broke with convention to announce he was moving the US embassy to Jerusalem in line with his pre-election pledge, causing the crisis.
Many European states condemned the move. There are fears, also expressed at the Istanbul Summit, that making Jerusalem the Israeli capital will not only undermine the already strained 2-state peace talks, but also incite major violence and extremism in the country and region.