OIC summit seeks strong ‘concerted response’ to Jerusalem crisis

A Palestinian protester throws stones toward Israeli forces during clashes at the main entrance of the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 11 December 2017
0

OIC summit seeks strong ‘concerted response’ to Jerusalem crisis

RIYADH: Turkey has called on the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to develop a strong “concerted response” to US President Donald Trump’s belligerent decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The call was made here Sunday, ahead of the OIC summit to be convened in Istanbul on Wednesday.
Turkish Ambassador Yunus Demirer, whose country holds the chairmanship of the OIC, called upon the member countries to convene in Istanbul in order “to develop a concerted response in defense of the sanctity of Al-Quds.”
Demirer added: “Turkey deeply resents the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by the US.”
He said that “the OIC’s emergency summit will be preceded by the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers meeting on Dec. 13 itself.”
Referring to Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem, Ambassador Demirer said: “The US decision does not only go against the rules of rationality and conscience, but it is also a major breach of international law, especially Security Council Resolution 478, which the US endorsed erstwhile.”
“Turkey has also reacted strongly in protest against this decision which threatens to overthrow decades of peace negotiations,” the envoy noted. He described it as an “unsavory move that defiles the sanctity of a city, where the sacred places of the three celestial religions have coexisted.
“The OIC summit will also discuss the repercussions of the recognition by the US of Al-Quds as a capital of Israel,” said astatement released by the Jeddah-based OIC on Sunday.
The statement added that “the OIC foreign ministers will hold an extraordinary meeting on the same morning (Wednesday) to discuss the US move in a unified and coordinated manner.”
The OIC summit has added significance keeping in view the international condemnation and protests that have erupted in many countries following Trump’s announcement.
The issue will also be high on the agenda during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Ankara on Monday. According to reports, the Russian leader, already scheduled to visit Egypt on Monday, will travel to Turkey on the same day for talks with President RecepTayyip Erdogan on the Jerusalem crisis and the situation in Syria.
Predicting the outcome of this emergency OIC summit, Bekir Bozdag, Turkey’s deputy prime minister, said: “The Palestine question goes beyond the Palestinians. We should not consider it a local issue. Palestine and Jerusalem is the common cause for all Muslim countries.”
Speaking to broadcaster Kanal 7, Bozdag said: “Turkey has long supported very clear policies on the Palestine-Jerusalem issue and will continue to advocate these loud and clear policies.”
The minister repeated Erdogan’s remark that the status of Jerusalem was a “red line” for Muslims living in different parts of the world. A number of heads of OIC states, including top diplomats and high-ranking officials, are expected to attend the summit.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Indonesian President Joko Widodo have already confirmed their participation at the Istanbul summit.


Holy Land churches cry foul over Israeli legislation on lands

Updated 18 June 2018
0

Holy Land churches cry foul over Israeli legislation on lands

  • In their letter to Netanyahu, the Christian leaders slammed the “scandalous bill,” accusing its backers of an “unprecedented attack against the Christians of the Land.”
  • Large swathes of Jerusalem are owned by various churches, which in many cases reached long-term leasing agreements with the state.

JERUSALEM: Three major Holy Land churches implored Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to prevent the advancement of a draft bill they said was aimed at expropriating their lands.
Heads of the Armenian, Greek Orthodox and Catholic churches in Jerusalem also accused the Israeli authorities of failing to keep a committment made just a few months ago that brought an end to a major crisis between the sides.
In February, the Jerusalem municipality began enforcing tax collection on church property, while separately lawmakers in the parliament worked on advancing a law that would allow expropriation of church property.
The church leaders in protest closed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site in Jerusalem where Jesus is believed to have been crucified and buried, following which Israeli authorities froze both the tax measures and the legislation, committing to a dialogue with the Christians over the issues.
Rachel Azaria, a lawmaker with the centrist coalition party Kulanu, recently renewed work on a slightly revised bill that does not mention churches but would let the state expropriate the rights over lands sold by such bodies in Jerusalem, while offering compensation.
In their Monday letter to Netanyahu, the Christian leaders slammed the “scandalous bill,” accusing its backers of an “unprecedented attack against the Christians of the Land.”
“Certain elements in the government of Israel are still attempting to promote divisive, racist and subversive agendas, thereby undermining the Status Quo and targeting the Christian community on the basis of extraneous and populist considerations,” they said.
The church leaders also said that despite the Israeli committment to communicate on these issues via a specially appointed committee headed by Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, “no dialogue whatsoever has taken place with us” since the end of February.
“We view such conduct, from those who promote the bill, as a flagrant violation and undermining of Your Excellency’s commitment and of the basic and fundamental freedom of worship,” the church leaders said.
They urged Netanyahu to swiftly “block the bill whose unilateral promotion will compel the Churches to reciprocate.”
Large swathes of Jerusalem are owned by various churches, which in many cases reached long-term leasing agreements with the state.
Residents living in homes on such lands fear the churches could sell the lands to private developers, who would be free to do as they wish with their property, including raising rents or razing existing structures.
Azaria said her bill did not single out churches, and was aimed at solving the problem of “thousands of Jerusalem residents who could lose their homes due to the demands of developers.”
There was no immediate comment from Netanyahu’s office while Hanegbi refused to comment.
A spokeswoman for Azaria told AFP the bill was coordinated with Netanyahu and Hanegbi.