International allies warn against possible Trump Jerusalem decision

File: US officials have said president Donald Trump is likely to give a speech on Wednesday unilaterally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital Photo: NYEIN CHAN NAING / POOL / AFP

ANKARA - President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday Turkey could go as far as breaking off diplomatic ties with Israel if the United States formally recognises Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, a move he said would be a "red line" for Muslims.

US officials have said Trump is likely to give a speech on Wednesday unilaterally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a step that would break with decades of US policy and could fuel violence in the Middle East.

READ: Trump close to decision on Jerusalem: Kushner

Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war. It later annexed it, declaring the whole of the city as its capital, a move not recognised internationally. Palestinians want Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

"I am saddened by the reports that the US is getting ready to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital," Erdogan said.

"Mr Trump, Jerusalem is the red line of Muslims. It is a violation of international law to take a decision supporting Israel while Palestinian society's wounds are still bleeding," he told a parliamentary meeting of his ruling AK Party.

"...this can go as far as severing Turkey's ties with Israel. I am warning the United States not to take such a step which will deepen the problems in the region."

Israeli government spokesmen had no immediate reaction, but Education Minister Naftali Bennett, a senior partner in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government, brushed off Erdogan's comments.

"There will always be those who criticize, but at the end of the day it is better to have a united Jerusalem than Erdogan's sympathy," he said.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Tuesday that the United States should not take any measures that would alter Jerusalem's legal and political status, Egypt's state news agency MENA reported.

He said the possible move of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem would be a "dangerous measure that would have repercussions" across the region.

If Trump made such a move, it could spark demonstrations or violence by Palestinians or by Muslims around the world, in part because of the sensitivity of the Jerusalem site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif.

The site includes the al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, and the golden Dome of the Rock. It was also the site of an ancient Jewish temple, the holiest place in Judaism.

US allies also voiced their misgivings about the United States unilaterally calling Jerusalem Israel's capital. "Any US announcement on the status of Jerusalem prior to a final settlement would have a detrimental impact on the peace process and would heighten tensions in the region," Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, said in a statement.

French President Emmanuel Macron "expressed his concern over the possibility that the United States would unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel" during a phone call with Trump on Monday, Macron's office said after the two leaders spoke by telephone.

And in an unusually detailed statement published by Jordan's official news agency Petra, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi was quoted as having warned US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson against the move in a call on Sunday.

Safadi said such a move would "trigger anger across the Arab and Muslim world, fuel tension and jeopardize peace efforts," Petra reported.

The Palestine Liberation Organization's chief representative in Washington, Husam Zomlot, said a formal US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would be the "kiss of death" to the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"Should such a step be taken it would have catastrophic consequences," Zomlot told Reuters.

A fifth US official said concerns of Palestinian and other Arab leaders about endorsing Israel's claim to Jerusalem were being taken into account but no final decisions had been made.

Daniel Benjamin, a former US counterterrorism official now at Dartmouth University, had a simple message: "This is playing with fire."

Reuters

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