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What is required of Turkey in the latest fight for Al-Aqsa

.: July 27, 2017

In this article, the author explained that the status of Jerusalem is one the most important Palestinian’s issues of a great interest for Turkey.

The Holy Land in general has special significance for Turkey since Ottoman times. But Jerusalem (and al-Aqsa mosque) has been a gateway for Turkish involvement in the Palestinian cause evidenced by the role that Turkey played in re-building al-Aqsa mosque after the fire of 1969. In the current battle for al-Aqsa, Turkey was initially reserved. Prime Minister Yildirim’s delayed the first first remarks expressing Turkey’s rejection of Israel’s actions. However it was not long before official Turkish statements expressed further discontent and popular dissatisfaction.

Greater involvement of President Erdogan

Turkish president, Recept Tayyip Erodgan, issued a statement as head of the Islamic Cooperation Council (in charge of restoring artifacts in Jerusalem) that fully rejects all of the measures taken by Israel in al-Aqsa mosque and Jerusalem at large, both of which he described as ’occupied’. The Turkish president also urged the Israeli government to restore the status quo ante and rejected the “presence of violence from any and all sides.” In addition to the Turkish government’s statements, the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) also rejected Israel’s practices. Moreover, CHP officials have sent a delegation to the Palestinian embassy for talks and the head of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahçeli, accused Tel-Aviv of being a “source of terrorism” in a recent fiery speech.

Additionally, Turkey was among the countries with the highest levels of national protest in large cities and nearly all of the sermons given at the Friday prayer in Turkey were about al-Aqsa crisis. It appears, then, that the Turkish stance on the crisis in Jerusalem is best understood as solidarity at all levels and in all strata and on a daily basis. Erdogan’s speech on Tuesday to the AKP’s parliamentary bloc expressed that solidarity with al-Aqsa is a “question of fate not possibility.” However, it is difficult to say whether or not the Turkish position will amount to anything more than talk. But Turkey should do more. On the one hand, we are talking about an unprecedented crisis in which the Israeli occupation forces are attempting to change the status quo of al-Aqsa mosque and impose a new reality that would give Israeli full control over al-Aqsa. But we note: Al-Aqsa mosque is one out of three mosques that hold significance in Islam and, moreover, it is the symbol of the Palestinian cause. In addition, al-Aqsa and Jerusalem are both classified as occupied territories under international law (giving full rights to the Palestinians) and UNESCO’s recent resolution classifies both Jerusalem and the Old City of Hebron as Palestinian cultural heritage sites.

Exercising its influence bilaterally with Israel.

Turkey cannot stand by while these holy and historic sites are subject to violence and terrorism by heavily armed soldiers whose aim is to desecrate them. Turkey should demand that Islamic Cooperation Council declare a state of emergency and calling for a subsequent meeting. Such a step would move us away from empty statements and force countries to stand up for their responsibilities (including Saudi Arabia, which holds the symbolic role of Arab leadership within the council). Activating the committee known as “Parliamentarians for Jerusalem” that was recently launched in Istanbul under official Turkish auspices. It encourages Islamic and Arab parliaments to take clear and a decisive stance with regards to the question of Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque.

Turkey has mentioned several times that the normalisation of relations with Israel will not come at the expense of its position on the Palestinian cause. In particular, Turkey has the ability to place diplomatic pressure on Israel by threatening to withdraw its support for the issue of Mediterranean gas. (Israel requires Turkish support in order to export to Europe). Events taking place over al-Aqsa mosque are truly a battle. For that reason, it is unacceptable for Jerusalemites endure the abuse broken-willed. It is also unacceptable for the occupying forces to emerge from this battle with any gains, no matter how small, with regards to al-Aqsa and who holds control over its sovereignty.

The potential for a catastrophic loss is real and we cannot allow to take place because it has direct implications on the future of al-Aqsa mosque, Jerusalem and the Palestinian cause, as well as the region as a whole. Turkey is at the forefront of the countries that can play a positive and influential role in this crisis. Finally, a progressive Turkish position will undoubtedly increase Ankara’s moral and political fortunes.

Said AL-HAJ © Middle East Monitor (UK)

Said Al-Haj is a searcher specialise in Turkish foreign policy.

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