ISTANBUL, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed hope on Sunday that Turkey would soon be able to open an embassy to a Palestinian state in East Jerusalem, as he again denounced US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.
Erdogan has sought to lead Islamic condemnation of his US counterpart’s move, calling a summit of the leaders of Muslim nations last week in Istanbul who urged the world to recognize East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.
East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel after it gained control of the area in the 1967 Six Day War, in a move never recognized by the international community.
“Because it is under occupation we can’t just go there and open an embassy,” Erdogan said in a speech to his ruling party in the city of Karaman.
“But, (God willing) those days are near and… we will officially open our embassy there,” he said, without giving any precise timetable.
Turkey currently has a general consulate in Jerusalem. Ankara has full diplomatic ties with Israel, and like most other nations, its embassy is in Tel Aviv.
In an address December 6 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 Prime Minister Benjamin 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.
Turkey’s ties with Israel, frequently fraught in the Erdogan era, have frayed over the move, with Ankara going so far as to threaten to freeze diplomatic relations if Trump went ahead with the recognition.
In his speech Sunday, Erdogan again slammed his US counterpart’s decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel and move the US embassy in Israel to the city, saying it smacked of a “Zionist and evangelist logic and understanding.”
He said Jews had no right to “appropriate” Jerusalem which was the “capital of Muslims.”
“Please stop where you are and don’t attempt any Zionist operation,” he said. “If you try, then the price is going to be high.”
Erdogan hailed the outcome of the December 13 summit which he said showed the “world a vote of unity.”
However the meeting was overshadowed by regional tensions, with close US allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates sending lower-level officials rather than leaders.
In a speech on the eve of the summit, Erdogan had warned Muslims against “internecine warfare” and “attacks to bring down Muslims from within,” saying fighting with each other “only helps terror states like Israel.”
Israel has reacted relatively coolly to Erdogan’s repeated broadsides over the last days, with Netanyahu saying he was “not impressed” by statements made at the summit.