Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said an upcoming summit of Muslim leaders will mark a “turning point” in the response to a US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
A strong supporter of the Palestinian cause, Erdogan called Wednesday’s extraordinary meeting in Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, under the auspices of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Erdogan has threatened to cut diplomatic ties with Israel over the issue of Jerusalem, declaring the city’s status a “red line”.
Historical power centres of the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, have also condemned US President Donald Trump’s unilateral move, without, however, announcing any concrete measures of their own.
Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
“Unfortunately, Erdogan does not miss an opportunity to attack Israel,” Naftali Bennett, Israel’s education minister, said in response to the Turkish leader’s speech in which he threatened to severe relations with Israel, “if necessary”.
However, Erdogan has also spearheaded efforts to normalise relations between Turkey and Israel over the past year, after a near-break after Israeli forces stormed a Gaza-bound ship, resulting in the death of 10 Turkish activists.
Here is a round-up of what Turkey’s president has been saying about Jerusalem in recent days, and a look at his country’s ties with Israel.
‘Partner in bloodshed’
In a speech on Monday in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, Erdogan said Trump’s decision had made Washington complicit in violence.
“The ones who made Jerusalem a dungeon for Muslims and members of other religions will never be able to clean the blood from their hands,” said Erdogan.
“With their decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the United States has become a partner in this bloodshed,” he added, noting that he did not consider Trump’s decision binding.
Turkey, however, is an ally of the US. It joined NATO in 1952.
On Sunday, speaking at a meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party in the central city of Sivas, Erdogan labelled Israel a “terrorist state”, saying “Palestine has been under occupation since 1947”.
“Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is null and void for us in any case,” he added, noting that the US declaration was an attempt to “damage peace and security in the region”.
“Trump seeks to move forwards by saying. ‘there we go, I did it, it’s done!,” Erdogan said, adding, “I’m sorry but… being strong does not give you such a right”.
‘Jerusalem is a red line’
Ahead of Trump’s announcement, Erdogan said he could go as far as breaking off diplomatic ties with Israel if Washington formally recognised Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, calling such a move a “red line” for Muslims.
“I am saddened by the reports that the US is getting ready to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” he said on Tuesday.
“Mr. Trump, Jerusalem is the red line of Muslims. It is a violation of international law to take a decision supporting Israel while Palestinian society’s wounds are still bleeding,” he told a parliamentary meeting of his ruling party.
“This can go as far as severing Turkey’s ties with Israel. I am warning the United States not to take such a step which will deepen the problems in the region.”
Ties restored in 2016. Israel and Turkey announced in June 2016 they would normalise ties after a a years-long rupture.
Pipeline deal in 2017. Israel and Turkey agreed to build an underwater pipeline connecting Israel’s massive offshore gas field Leviathan to Turkey, Reuters news agency reported in March .
This could be built within four years, according to one of the partners in the project.
Israel has been pursuing several regional export deals for its newfound gas reserves and the Leviathan group is moving ahead with development plans since making its final $3.75bn investment decision.
Help extinguishing fires. In November 2016, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Turkey for sending specialised aircraft to help put out a rash of wildfires that broke out in several parts of the country.
Turkey was the only country from the Middle East to provide such help to Israel. Greece, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus and Russia also offered to assist extinguishing the blazes.