President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Monday that the U.S. has lost all legitimacy as a mediator between Israelis and the Palestinians because of the Trump administration’s controversial decision to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “With its latest step, the U.S. has chosen to become part of the problem rather than a solution, losing its mediator role in the Middle East peace process,” Erdoğan said during his address at Chatham House, a London-based think tank. The U.S. officially moved its embassy to Jerusalem Monday, which also marked the 70th anniversary of Nakba, or “catastrophe,” a term used by Palestinians to describe Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories following Israel’s declaration of independence on May 14, 1948. Israel’s occupation, which they justified as reclaiming their right to live in their native lands, led to the forceful displacement of nearly 1 million Palestinian from the lands they had called home for centuries.
In his speech, Erdoğan described the U.S.’s decision as unfortunate, and added that Turkey “rejects the decision, which overruns international law and United Nation resolutions.”
In a statement released by the Turkish presidency late Sunday, Erdoğan said the Trump’s move was “incompatible with humanity’s sense of rights, justice and fairness,” and the United States violated all relevant U.N. resolutions and even its own body of law.
On Dec. 6, U.S. President Donald Trump announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to relocate the U.S. Embassy to the holy city.
The Jerusalem decision prompted opposition from the international community, as the previously agreed international stance was that the status of the city should be negotiated between the Israelis and the Palestinians and that a unilateral decision on the issue would harm the religious sensitivity given to the city by all Muslims, Christians and Jews.
Turkey, as the term president of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), had called on the leaders of OIC member countries to convene an emergency summit in Istanbul and took leadership in carrying the issue to the United Nations General Assembly after a draft resolution on the issue was vetoed 14-1 by the U.S. in the U.N. Security Council.
The U.N. General Assembly passed the draft resolution with 128 countries in favor, nine against and 35 abstentions on Dec. 21, asking the U.S. to withdraw its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The U.S.-mediated peace process, which has been stalemated for years, was initially launched in 1993 in an accord signed in Oslo. It was initially signed by Yasir Arafat, the president of Palestine before incumbent Mahmoud Abbas, and two years later it was signed by Israel’s then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
According to the agreed accord, issues between the two sides would have to be resolved within five years, and it also divided the West Bank into three sections between the Israelis and Palestinians for governance, administration and security.
An important aspect of the Oslo Accords is that both sides mutually recognized each other’s political authority. The ultimate aim was to have a two-state solution. The peace process continued; however, they mostly failed, with the last meeting held in 2014, brokered by then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
During his talk at Chatham House, the Turkish president said that regional tensions escalated due to the controversial move, bringing the global atmosphere and tensions to a level unseen since the eve of World War II.
Palestinians were called on to protest en masse the inauguration of the embassy yesterday, during which scores of Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces, and hundreds were injured.
Erdoğan also called on the international community to act against the increasing aggression of the Israeli government against the Palestinians.
The president’s comments came during his official three-day visit to the U.K. where he was scheduled to meet Queen Elizabeth II and British Prime Minister Theresa May.
The U.K. prime minister’s spokesman said that Britain has no plans to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and disagrees with the U.S.’s decision.
“The PM said in December when the announcement was first made that we disagree with the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital before a final status agreement. The British Embassy in Israel is based in Tel Aviv, and we have no plans to move it,” the spokesman told reporters.
Jerusalem was first put under international sovereignty and control with the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan, which recommended the division of historical Palestine between Jewish and Arab states to end the conflict in the region.
The U.N. opted for a special status, as Jerusalem is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims. However, during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Israeli forces declared West Jerusalem part of Israel, ignoring the U.N. recommendation.
In the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel again targeted Jerusalem, taking control of the eastern part of the city, which was previously under Jordanian control. Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, while the international community has said that the status of Jerusalem should be decided in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians