The Jerusalem cause is not just the cause of a handful of brave Muslims, but the common cause of the entire Islamic world, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Friday.
Speaking at the opening session of the 16th conference of the Parliamentary Union of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (PUIC) in Istanbul, Erdoğan said that defending Jerusalem means defending humanity.
He also called on all member countries to avoid any action that can harm the Palestinian cause.
"It is unfair and unscrupulous to make the Palestinians pay the price for the genocide against the Jews in Europe during World War II," he said, adding that as the descendants of an ancestor who ruled Jerusalem justly for 400 years, they do not want to see blood, tears and oppression in Palestine.
"We resolutely maintain our sensitivity regarding the status of East Jerusalem and the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque," he underlined.
The way to permanent peace and stability is through the establishment of an independent, sovereign, territorially integrated Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital, Erdoğan also said.
Turkey may fix relations with Israel if the Tel Aviv administration takes concrete steps regarding Palestine, Erdoğan said Wednesday. The president noted that Turkey is in favor of living in peace and establishing regional peace.
“I’d had talks with Israel in the past but Israel needs to act more sensitively regarding its regional policies on Palestine,” Erdoğan said, adding that Tel Aviv needs to act responsibly on the issue of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Ankara would immediately start reciprocating if it sees Israel doing its part, the president said, adding that the two countries can reappoint envoys the moment Israel acknowledges actions that are considered red flags by Turkey.
Known for its unbreakable solidarity with the Palestinians, Turkey has been voicing support for the Palestinian cause in the international realm for decades. Turkish authorities emphasize that the only way to achieve lasting peace and stability in the Middle East is through a fair and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue within the framework of international law and United Nations resolutions. Turkish officials continue to criticize Israel’s policies targeting Palestinians, including the illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem and the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. It annexed the entire city in 1980, in a move that has never been recognized by the international community. Israel sees all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital – a status not recognized internationally. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital for their future state. Gaza has also been under a tightened Israeli blockade since 2007 and most basic goods enter the region through highly restricted measures.
Erdoğan also touched upon the recent crisis in Afghanistan and said that it is our common wish for Afghanistan to achieve lasting peace and stability.
"We cannot afford to turn our backs on the Afghan people," he added.
He also criticized the Western countries' stance on the migration waves stemming from war-torn countries.
"In fact, countries like us, which are neighbors to the crisis regions, bear the main burden on the issue of migration and refugees, rather than the vocal Western countries," Erdoğan said.
The international community needs to deliver humanitarian aid to the Afghan people, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Monday, underlining that the sensitivity shown by Qatar and Turkey should set an example.
Turkey has been a key transit point for irregular migrants who want to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution such as the Syrian civil war that began in early 2011. The country already hosts 4 million refugees, more than any country in the world, amid signs that a new wave of Afghan refugees might head towards Turkey and the European Union.
The Turkish government has adopted a pragmatic approach toward the recent events in Afghanistan. Underlining that new realities have emerged in Afghanistan, Ankara said it would move forward accordingly while keeping communication with all relevant actors open.
The Taliban say they want international recognition but warn that weakening their government will affect security and spark an even bigger exodus of migrants from the country. Taliban officials previously noted that they want Turkey to provide aid and support to the Afghan people. They called on Turkey to be the first country to recognize the new administration in Afghanistan formally.
Turkey, a NATO member, maintained its embassy in Afghanistan after Western countries withdrew following the Taliban takeover and urged those countries to step up engagement. At the same time, it said it will only work fully with the Taliban if they form a more inclusive administration.
Erdoğan once again underlined the threat of rising Islamophobia, especially in Europe.
"As Muslims, we are not only fighting the coronavirus or humanitarian crises but also the growing anti-Islamism," he said.
On Islamophobia and hate speech, Erdoğan urged member countries to take "more decisive steps."
"We cannot allow Europe, where 35 million Muslims from different origins live, to turn into a concentration camp for our brothers and sisters," he said.
"As an organization, we must take more decisive steps in the fight against Islamophobia and hate speech."
President Erdoğan said earlier this year that Western countries insist on not taking measures against growing anti-Islam sentiment. Erdoğan also called on Turkish institutions to take action on issues related to Muslims and Turks in these countries. Some European countries, particularly France, have embraced a hostile stance against Muslims in recent years.
The president also mentioned Turkey's help to other countries during the coronavirus pandemic by saying that it had delivered aid to 160 countries and 12 international organizations in need, as well as supplied vaccines to 11 countries
Speaking after Erdoğan, Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop also said: “As Muslims living in the most strategic geographies of the world with a population of nearly 2 billion in the world, our power and influence is relatively small, even though we have the great opportunities of the world economy.”
He called on the member countries to think about this problem and urged them to act in unity.
“In order to contribute to the security and stability of Islamic countries, and to the peace and welfare of the peoples, we need to come forward and adopt a constructive and guiding stance in terms of meeting humanitarian needs and reconciling our brothers who are in conflict with each other,” he said.
Şentop also underlined that it is of great importance that the migration issue, which concerns the whole world and especially the region, is resolved without making anyone suffer. In this context, joint efforts are a requirement of being both a Muslim and a human being, he said.
"I believe that we should sensitively protect our attention and support for these brothers and sisters, who face prejudice, intolerance and discrimination against Muslims in the most intense way and preserve their religion and identity under pressure and persecution. With this understanding, we need to implement mechanisms that will closely monitor the grievances, needs and demands of these brothers and sisters," Şentop said.
Muslims residing in countries that are not members of the PUIC are exposed to violence, persecution and violations of basic human rights, Şentop also said, offering a special committee to draw attention to the suffering of Muslim minorities across the world.