Erdogan, Macron agree to press Trump to reverse his Jerusalem recognition
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Erdogan, Macron agree to press Trump to reverse his Jerusalem recognition

Turkish president calls Israel a 'state of occupation,' accuses it of 'making use of terror'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at an official dinner with Greece's President Prokopis Pavlopoulos in Athens on December 7, 2017. (AFP Photo/Angelos Tzortzinis)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at an official dinner with Greece's President Prokopis Pavlopoulos in Athens on December 7, 2017. (AFP Photo/Angelos Tzortzinis)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron agreed on Saturday to work together to push the US to reconsider its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Reuters reported.

Quoting a Turkish presidential source, the news agency said the two leaders discussed the issue during a phone call Saturday, agreeing the move was a cause of concern in the region.

Macron called the US move “regrettable” shortly after President Donald Trump’s announcement on Wednesday. Erdogan, who has threatened to cut ties with Israel, has been bitterly opposed to Trump’s decision and has called a summit of Islamic countries on December 13 in Istanbul.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was heading to Paris and Brussels late Saturday, and is set to meet Macron. Hundreds of pro-Palestinian demonstrators rallied in Paris on Saturday night.

French President Emmanuel Macron holds a press conference at the French embassy in Algiers on December 6, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ludovic Marin)

On Saturday, Erdogan stepped up his criticism, describing Israel as a “state of occupation” which used “terror” against the Palestinians.

“Israel is a state of occupation,” Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul. “And now they are making use of terror and are bombing young people and children,” he said.

Israeli air strikes in response to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip killed two gunmen from the Hamas terror group before dawn.

Several rockets were fired at Israel from Hamas-run Gaza on Thursday and Friday, one of them landing in Sderot and another being intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, has called for a new intifada against Israel to liberate Jerusalem, and urged Palestinians to confront soldiers and settlers.

Erdogan, who regards himself as a champion of the Palestinians and an opponent of any perceived global injustice against Muslims, described Jerusalem as the “apple of our eye” and a “red line” for Muslims.

He said that the American decision was “null and void” for Ankara. “Trump seeks to move forwards by saying ‘there we go, I did it, it’s done!’ I’m sorry but… being strong does not give you such a right.”

“The leaders of major countries have a mission to make peace. Not unleash conflicts.

In Istanbul on Saturday, protesters rallied holding Turkish and Palestinian flags, and chanted anti-US slogans.

Protesters, holding Turkish and Palestinian flags and a placard of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, chant anti-U.S. slogans during a rally in Istanbul, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017 against U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem at the capital of Israel. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

In his Wednesday address from the White House, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

The move was hailed by Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

US President Donald Trump holds up a signed memorandum recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as US Vice President looks on, at the White House, on December 6, 2017. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

Erdogan on Saturday continued to play a central role in diplomatic efforts in the crisis, telephoning both Macron and Lebanese President Michel Aoun, the presidency said.

Last year, Turkey and Israel ended a rift triggered by the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla, in which nine Turkish activists were killed after attacking Israeli commandos who boarded their ship, which was trying to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza.

The two sides have since stepped up cooperation, particularly in energy, but Erdogan has repeatedly been bitterly critical of Israeli policy.

Last week he warned that Turkey’s reaction “could go as far as” cutting relations with Israel, but he made no reference to this in his latest speech.

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