Asia’s Muslim countries want East Jerusalem seen as Palestinian capital – Nikkei Asian Review

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Indonesians protest American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital outside the U.S. embassy in Jakarta on Dec. 8 (Simon Roughneen)

Calls are response to U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital

SINGAPORE — Reacting to the U.S. move last week to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Muslim-majority countries in Asia have joined fresh calls for wider recognition of an independent Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Speaking in Istanbul on Wednesday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo told the 56 other members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation that the group “can serve as a motor” to persuade countries that have not recognized Palestine “to do so immediately.”

The Palestinian mission to the United Nations lists 137 countries as recognizing Palestine. The level of recognition varies among those countries, as Palestine has not been granted full U.N. membership.

Though some OIC members recognize Israel — including summit host Turkey — Asian countries such as Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Malaysia do not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

The OIC’s Istanbul meeting was held in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s declaration last week that the U.S. would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which has been entirely controlled by Israel since its victory in the 1967 Six Day War with neighboring Arab countries.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that the OIC needs to do more to support Palestine becoming a “viable, independent and contiguous state” based on “internationally agreed parameters” — and mentioning “the pre-1967 borders and with Al Quds [Jerusalem] as its capital.”

In recent days the U.S. announcement sparked protests in Muslim-majority countries, with demonstrations held in Asian cities such as Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur.

“We have witnessed violence and unrest as a result. We have seen protests and demonstrations against the decision, including in my own country,” said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, addressing the OIC gathering.

Rheza Siregar, a member of the Indonesian Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama, who took part in a Dec. 8 protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, said that “the move is not legal, is not recognized.”

The U.S. has in the past sought to mediate peace deals between Israel and the Palestinians — though the 1993 Oslo Accords, remembered for the famous handshake at the White House between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders — bypassed the status of Jerusalem, which Israel maintains, “complete and united, is the capital of Israel,” but which is regarded as a holy city by Christians and Muslims as well as Jews.

The huge security wall built by the Israeli government through the West Bank and Jerusalem (Simon Roughneen)

 At the Wednesday meeting, OIC members echoed calls by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for the U.S. to withdraw from the now-stalled peace process due to its position on Jerusalem. The U.S. declaration that it regards Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has “drastically reduced the credibility of the U.S. administration as an honest mediator in the Arab-Israeli peace process,” according to Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid.

Abdul Aziz, another Jakarta protester, said that “Mr. Trump is making America’s reputation bad around the world with this decision.”

Indonesian vice-president Jusuf Kalla speaks to media in Tangerang, west of Jakarta, on Dec. 6. Standing alongside him is foreign minister Retno Marsudi, wearing a Palestinian scarf to protest against the U.S. announcement about Jerusalem (Simon Roughneen)

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