ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey called on Muslim countries to stop other nations from following the United States and opening embassies in Israel’s Jerusalem, as it opened a meeting in Istanbul on Friday to address the issue.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called the summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), made up of 57 member countries, after Israeli forces killed dozens of protesters in Gaza this week. The Palestinian protesters were demonstrating against the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
“In the final declaration, we will emphasise the status of the Palestine issue for our community, and that we will not allow changing the status of the historic city,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at an opening address.
“We must prevent other countries from following the U.S. example.”
Turkey has been one of the most vocal critics of the U.S. move and the violence in Gaza, with the government declaring three days of mourning for those killed. Erdogan has described the actions of the Israeli forces as a “genocide” and Israel as a “terrorist state”.
The events in Gaza have also sparked a diplomatic row between Turkey and Israel, with both countries expelling each other’s senior diplomats this week.
The plight of Palestinians resonates with many Turks, including with the nationalist and religious voters who form the base of Erdogan’s support.
U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein on Friday said Israel has systematically deprived Palestinians of their human rights, with 1.9 million in Gaza “caged in a toxic slum from birth to death”.
Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Daren Butler