Turkey says US embassy opening in Jerusalem in May ‘extremely worrying’

Washington says the current consular facilities in the city will be expanded as a temporary measure while the search for a permanent site continues

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 February, 2018, 9:54am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 February, 2018, 10:31pm

Turkey on Saturday described as “extremely worrying” the US move to open its embassy in Jerusalem in May to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel.

Friday’s announcement by Washington to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to the disputed city follows US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6.

“This decision shows the US administration’s insistence on damaging the grounds for peace by trampling over international law, resolutions of United Nations Security Council on Jerusalem,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement. “Turkey will continue its effort to protect the legitimate rights of the Palestinian public … against this extremely worrying decision by the US.”

Ankara said the decision showed the US does not hear, “and worse still, does not care about the voice of the international community’s conscience”.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan led Islamic condemnation of the ruling in December and called an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit of the leaders of Muslim nations in Istanbul soon after Trump’s announcement.

The leaders urged the world to recognise East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.

East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel after it seized control of the area in the 1967 war, but the move has never been recognised by the international community.

The Palestinian leadership on Friday said the US move, a year earlier than originally expected, was “a provocation to Arabs”.

“This is an unacceptable step. Any unilateral move will not give legitimacy to anyone and will be an obstacle to any effort to create peace in the region,” said Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, who was in the US until Saturday.

In a speech on Friday to a gathering of conservatives in suburban Washington, Trump recalled his controversial decision, saying he withstood enormous pressure to make the move.

“I put the word out that I may do it. I was hit by more countries and more pressure and more people calling, begging me ‘Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it,’” Trump said. “I said we have to do it. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to do, we have to do it. And I did it.”

Clashes erupted in Gaza and the West Bank earlier on Friday, in a weekly protest against Trump’s stance on Jerusalem.

Palestinian health officials have said at least 20 Palestinians, most of them in Gaza, have been killed in protests against Trump’s decision since he announced it.

US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley will visit Honduras and Guatemala next week apparently as reward for supporting the United States during a the vote on the embassy move.

The trip to two of the region’s most troubled countries follows the lopsided UN General Assembly vote to condemn Trump’s decision.

“We are grateful to these two countries for standing with us at the US when many others did not,” a spokesman for the US mission at the UN said late on Friday.

Only eight nations sided with the Trump administration during the December 21 vote, while 128 voted to condemn the US position.

Additional reporting by Associated Press, Reuters