Turkey warns of ‘catastrophe’ if US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
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Turkey warns of ‘catastrophe’ if US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

Deputy PM says action would would 'completely destroy' the peace process, cause new conflicts

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag (YouTube screenshot)
Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag (YouTube screenshot)

A senior Turkish government official on Monday warned of a “major catastrophe” if the United States recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital despite a flood of warnings from the Arab world.

“If the (current) status of Jerusalem is changed and another step is taken … that would be a major catastrophe,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said during a televised press conference. “It would completely destroy the fragile peace process in the region, and lead to new conflicts, new disputes and new unrest.”

The status of Jerusalem is one of the most contentious issues of the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

US President Donald Trump faces a key decision this week on whether to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, potentially reversing years of United States policy and drawing a furious response from the Palestinian leadership and the Arab world.

Most of the international community, including the US as well as Turkey, does not formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, insisting the issue can only be resolved through final status negotiations.

The US Embassy building in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv, December 28, 2016. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a champion of the Palestinian cause, often criticizes Israel over its actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, despite a 2016 reconciliation deal after years of severed ties following Israel’s deadly raid on a Gaza-bound ship.

Bozdag, also government spokesman, on Monday said a US step to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would benefit “neither Israel … nor the region.”

“It would not benefit anything. Rather than open new doors, it would drag the region into a new disaster.”

On Sunday the Arab League issued as similar warning, saying recognition would boost fanaticism and violence, and not serve the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East peace envoy Jared Kushner told the Saban Forum on Sunday the president is close to a decision on whether to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but has yet to make up his mind.

“It is unfortunate that some are insisting on carrying out this step without any regard to the dangers it carries to the stability of the Middle East and the whole world,” Ahmed Abul Gheit, head of the Arab League, told reporters in Cairo on Sunday.

“Nothing justifies this act… it will not serve peace or stability, instead it will nourish fanaticism and violence,” Abul Gheit said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas echoed the sentiment, warning the White House earlier on Sunday that the move would jeopardize the administration’s peace efforts in the Mideast.

As of Sunday, Trump had not signed a waiver delaying the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem by another six months, and he has only until Monday to do so. A stream of media reports in recent days have indicated that the president intends to declare this week that he considers Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital, and possibly announce the embassy move.

A 1995 law requires the relocation of the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, but provides the president with the prerogative to postpone the move every six months on national security grounds. Each of Trump’s three immediate predecessors — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — repeatedly exercised that right.

The Israeli government has long sought for the US to relocate its embassy and for the international community to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

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