International Meeting on Question of Jerusalem Opens in Ankara with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Calling City Important Cultural Inheritance for All

12 May 2014
GA/PAL/1295

International Meeting on Question of Jerusalem Opens in Ankara with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Calling City Important Cultural Inheritance for All

12 May 2014
General Assembly
GA/PAL/1295
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

International Meeting on Question of Jerusalem Opens in Ankara with Turkey’s

 

Foreign Minister Calling City Important Cultural Inheritance for All

 

ANKARA, 12 May — The International Meeting on the Question of Jerusalem opened this morning in Ankara, Turkey, to discuss the strengthening of international support for a just and lasting solution of the question of Jerusalem.

Ahmet Davutoğlu, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkey, said in opening remarks that Jerusalem was a great city in which history coincided with metaphysics.  “Those who would today get rid of this inheritance are not just acting against the people of Palestine, but against the history of humanity,” he added.  Jerusalem was not just a political issue or an area of conflict, but an area of peace, representing the humanitarian conscience as a whole.  There was “no need to become politicians, diplomats or experts on the issue, but to become humans”.

Jerusalem was an important inheritance in the cultural sense and that would not be “minimized to a single religion or ethnicity”, he continued.  Jerusalem was an issue of humanity, of Muslims, Jews and Christians, and nobody could take single-sided decisions.  If they did, “this would be dynamite in the Middle East peace process”, he said.  The United Nations should play a much more active role, he said, calling upon the international community to keep the question of Jerusalem on the agenda.  It was to be hoped that one day the region would once again see peace, and that people of different beliefs would feel peace, “in its real sense”.

Iyad bin Amin Madani, Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said that body had been following Israel’s policies in the occupied city of Al-Quds with deep concern, as well as its continuing settlement policy, judaization process, confiscation of land, and siege on the Gaza Strip.  Those serious violations represented not only aggression against the Palestinian people and their land and sanctuaries, but also blatant defiance of the international community.  They posed a threat to the security and stability of the whole region, he said, emphasizing that it was a duty to face up to Israel’s “apartheid” actions.  The situation was now at a “critical political juncture”, concretized in the impasse reached in the peace negotiations after Israel, the occupying force, “shut down all the doors” to any possible progress towards a just and comprehensive political settlement that would ensure security and stability in the region, he said.  The immensity of Israeli violations of international law “command a different brand of international intervention”.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a message read out by Robert Serry, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said the political stalemate posed “great risks to the prospects of a two-State solution”, and continued inaction could result in further instability.  “The parties should realize that not making a choice in favour of peace and coexistence within the two-State framework is the most detrimental choice of all.”  The question of Jerusalem was perhaps the most divisive of the core issues, he said, adding that he was particularly troubled by recent mounting tensions around the sensitive issue of access to Jerusalem’s holy sites.  “Jerusalem inspired faith and longing for Muslims, Jews and Christians.  It must be open and accessible to all,” he stressed.  “Only through a negotiated solution can Jerusalem emerge as a capital of two States, with arrangement for the holy sites acceptable to all.”

Abdou Salam Diallo (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, conveyed sincere appreciation and gratitude to Turkey and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, both of which were key partners in organizing the meeting.  He said the objective of the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People was to raise awareness of the main issues on Palestine and of obstacles to meaningful continuation of the peace process.  The Committee was “firmly wedded” to a two-State solution.  All parties had been called upon to act responsibly and create an appropriate climate for negotiations, to resolve all final status issues and bring and end to Israel’s occupation.

Despite the international community’s calls on Israel to stop settlement activity, their expansion continued at “an alarming rate in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, accompanied by the demolition of Palestinian homes and expropriation of Palestinian land, in violation of Articles 49 and 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” noted Mr. Diallo.  Any measure designed to expand or consolidate settlements was illegal.  As Member States of the United Nations, it was important to remember collective responsibility over Jerusalem.

Mahmoud Al-Habbash, Minister for Waqf and Religious Affairs and representative of the State of Palestine, said the Meeting came at a time when the Palestinian people everywhere, not only in Palestine, were remembering the sufferings and the Nakba, the pain felt since 1948.  Jerusalem had been established by the Palestinians some 5,000 years ago, as the “city of peace”.  Since then, many peoples and States had passed through Jerusalem, which had been occupied by many armies, but what remained unchanged was the presence of the Palestinians.  “We were not only talking about the rights of Muslim Palestinians, but also of Christian Palestinians,” he stressed.  Jerusalem was, for Palestinians of whatever religious conviction, an integral part of their religious heritage, he said.  It was their spirit, “a soul which gives them life and energy to go on living, and without it, they would be dead”.

Peace would not happen without Jerusalem, he emphasized.  Many painful concessions had been made for the sake of peace, but in exchange, Israel had persisted on denying the existence of the Palestinian people, historical, political or other.  The United Nations, the international community, must now provide practical support to the Arab Peace Initiative, a political solution presented by the Palestinian people and based on a two-State solution, otherwise such a solution may become “impossible or impractical” in the future.  It was not Judaism that Palestinians were fighting, he stressed.  The real problem was not one of religion, but of occupation of territory.  Jerusalem was a city of peace for the whole of mankind and must not remain under occupation.

Delivering the keynote address, Adnan Al-Husseini, Minister for Jerusalem Affairs of the State of Palestine, said the city had a special character, and was spoken of with love and patience, two characteristics lacking today in the “hostage city”.  From 1993 to date, negotiations had been a “waste of time” and Israeli expansion had doubled, he pointed out.  Palestinians far from Jerusalem had been excluded and deprived of the right to enter.  There had been collective and individual expulsions of Palestinians since 1967 and up to 600,000 families had been expelled from Jerusalem.  These practices contravened international law.

Colonization was happening, the settlers were there and now they had come out and threatened and expelled the Palestinians, threatening the demographic nature of Jerusalem, in order to create their space in the holy city.  The international community, particularly the United Nations, had to act to stop this destructive process and find a binding solution.  He called on the international community to intervene and apply pressure, in one way or another, on Israel, in accordance with international standards.  “There is a solution to the problem,” he stated.

Wasfi Kailani, Director of the Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, in Amman, Jordan, said the inalienable rights of Palestinians had been and were being marginalized and violated by the Israeli occupation daily, as shown in dozens of resolutions by the United Nations.  It was important to realize that Israel’s aggression vis-à-vis these rights was part of a greater move to prevent the Palestinians to establish their self-determination and their rights.  Since 1967, the imposition of a new status quo on the territory was being witnessed, changing the situation and eroding the life in Jerusalem, thereby creating a new Jewish reality.  The true problems, including the judaization of Jerusalem’s heritage and the wall, must be pinpointed in order to support the Palestinians.

The two-day Meeting is jointly organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Government of Turkey.

Resuming at 3:30 p.m. today, the International Meeting will hear expert presentations and hold a discussion on the status of Jerusalem in international law, examining the international regime for Jerusalem and United Nations efforts to implement it, the holy places, and United Nations resolutions on Jerusalem.

Opening of Session

ABDOU SALAM DIALLO, Chairman, Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, welcomed participants and said the Meeting was taking place in accordance with United Nations General Assembly resolution 68/12, which declared 2014 the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.  The subject of the Meeting — “Strengthening international support for a lasting and just solution of the question of Jerusalem” — aimed to provide clear and relevant information about the present situation in the city and to strengthen the international community’s efforts to advance the peace agenda.

Opening Remarks

AHMET DAVUTOĞLU, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkey, said in opening remarks that the Meeting was an important and historical one, which Turkey was pleased to host.  Jerusalem was a great city where history coincided with metaphysics.  Those who did not understand Jerusalem and would make it a place of destruction would be acting against humanity.  Jerusalem was a symbol of humanity, the history of humanity, and a token of various prophets and sultans.  All had united in Jerusalem, as great leaders of humanity.  Although seen as prophets of different religions, they were also seen as shared tradition.  Jerusalem was not just a political issue.  Its protection and safeguard was something owed to the human conscience.  “Those who would today get rid of this inheritance were not just acting against the people of Palestine, but against the history of humanity.”

The most important issue was that Jerusalem was not an area of conflict, but an area of peace, representing the humanitarian conscience as a whole, he said.  There was a responsibility to protect that conscience and to convey that message to future generations.  No issue could be an excuse or apology to make Jerusalem a separate place from humanitarian conscience.  What humanity could explain the wall that was being built? he asked.  What reason could “lock” Jerusalem?  There was no need to become politicians, diplomats or experts on the issue, but to become humans.  To fulfil ethical responsibility, there should be action against the restrictions on access to Al-Aqsa Mosque for prayers.

He went on to describe Jerusalem as an important inheritance in the cultural sense, emphasizing that it would not be minimized to a single religion or ethnicity.  Jerusalem under the dominance of Muslims had been open to all faces and religions.  There had been no “locking of doors” to keep historical monuments from other religions.  According to international law, Jerusalem was a territory under occupation, and those living within the city had been suffering since 1948.  There was now a need to show solidarity with the Palestinians, protecting justice and law, he said.  If United Nations decisions were not going to be implemented, why were such decisions taken in the first place?  Jerusalem was an issue of humanity, an issue of Muslims, Jews, and Christians, and nobody could take one-sided decisions.  If they did, “this would be dynamite in the Middle East peace process”.  The United Nations should play a much more active role, he said, calling upon the international community to keep the question of Jerusalem on the agenda.  The “wall of shame” would be destroyed and its destruction would be a symbol of peace in the Palestinian territory, for all people from all religions.  It was to be hoped that the region would once again see peace one day, and that people from different beliefs would feel peace in its real sense.

IYAD BIN AMIN MADANI, Secretary-General, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), reiterated that body’s firm position that the holy city of Al-Quds formed an integral part of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 by Israel, and similarly renewed its commitment to the defence of its Palestinian people along with support for international efforts to end the Israeli occupation and ensure the city’s return to Palestinian sovereignty, as a capital for the Palestinian State, and consistent emphasis on continuing United Nations responsibility for the Palestinian cause, including Al-Quds Al-Sharif.

He said OIC had been following with deep concern the serious Israeli policies in the occupied City of Al-Quds; its various undertakings designed to alter the city’s geographic and demographic character; to obliterate its Arab identity, religious and historical status through the continued construction and expansion of Israeli settlements both within and around the city; through recurrent aggressions on its Islamic and Christian sanctuaries and on its citizens by confiscating their properties, demolishing their homes, forcibly driving them out by all means and through attempts to pass brutally unjust and illegitimate laws to impose Israeli sovereignty on the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque; all in addition to the continued settlement policy, the judaization process, the confiscation of land, and the imposed siege on the Gaza Strip.  Those serious violations represented not only aggression against the Palestinian people and their land and sanctuaries, but also a blatant defiance of the international community, posing a threat to security and stability in the whole region.  It was a duty to face up to Israel’s “apartheid” actions, he said.  Views should be expressed loud and clear that in this world, there was no more room or tolerance for apartheid States.

We were at a critical political juncture, concretized in the impasse reached in the peace negotiations with the end of the nine-month period after Israel, the occupying force, shut down all the doors to any possible progress towards a just and comprehensive political settlement that would ensure security and stability in the region.  The immensity of Israeli violations of international law commanded a different brand of international intervention.  It was not acceptable that Israel continued to conduct itself as if it were a State above the law.  It was therefore an international responsibility for all States and institutions to deal with these violations on the basis that they formed a threat to international peace and security.  Palestine’s access to the United Nations as an Observer State should form an appropriate foundation on which to build in favour of moving towards the achievement of a two-State solution, and in support of the continued international efforts to invigorate the peace process.  Welcoming the recently concluded agreement on Palestinian national reconciliation, he expressed hope that the agreement would stick.  However, Palestinians needed a supporting hand to help them continue with the process and bring the division to a permanent end.  There was also a responsibility, as Muslims, to assert the right to pray in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest places of worship.

ROBERT SERRY, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said in a statement on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the Meeting was taking place two weeks after the target date for United States-brokered talks between Israel and Palestine to reach a comprehensive agreement.  The current political stalemate posed great risks to the prospects of a two-State solution, and continued inaction could result in further instability.  “The parties should realize that not making a choice in favour of peace and co-existence within the two-State framework is the most detrimental choice of all.”  The Secretary-General had called upon the parties to refrain from unilateral steps that aggravated the situation and diminished the prospects for a resumption of negotiations.

Settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem were illegal under international law and constituted a significant obstacle to achieving peace, he emphasized, also pointing out that demolishing Palestinian household and other property was in contradiction of Israel’s obligation to protect the civilian population under its occupation.  At the same time, continuing violence and attacks against civilians, including rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, were unacceptable, he stressed, describing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza as one of “profound concern”.  There had been calls for the complete opening of crossings into Gaza, including Rafah, to allow legitimate trade and movements of people.

The question of Jerusalem was perhaps the most divisive of the core issues, he said.  The Secretary-General was particularly troubled by recent mounting tensions around the sensitive issue of Jerusalem and access to its holy sites.  “Jerusalem inspires faith and longing for Muslims, Jews and Christians.  It must be open and accessible to all,” he said.  “Only through a negotiated solution can Jerusalem emerge as a capital of two States, with arrangement for the holy sites acceptable to all.”  Meanwhile, all parties should refrain from attempts to establish facts on the ground that altered the character of the Old City, or to allow provocations that could trigger further unrest and deepen mistrust.  Now was the time for the parties, supported by the international community, to take action to realize their commitment to the vision of two States for two peoples, Israel and Palestine.  The United Nations remained committed to helping them end the occupation and conflict, in pursuit of lasting peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.

ABDOU SALAM DIALLO (Senegal), Chairman, Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, conveyed sincere appreciation and gratitude to Turkey and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, both of which were key partners in organizing the meeting.  The objective of the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People was to raise awareness of the main issues on Palestine and raise awareness of obstacles to meaningful continuation of the peace process.  The Committee was firmly wedded to a two-State solution and was very grateful for the prodigious diplomatic engagement by United States Secretary of State John Kerry.  All parties had been called upon to act responsibly and create an appropriate climate for negotiations, to resolve all final status issues and bring an end to the Israeli occupation, i.e. a total Israeli withdrawal from territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem.

Despite the international community’s calls on Israel to stop settlement activity, their expansion continued at an alarming rate in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, accompanied by the demolition of Palestinian homes and the expropriation of Palestinian land, in violation of Articles 49 and 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Any measure designed to expand or consolidate settlements was illegal.  As Member States of the United Nations, it was important to remember the collective responsibility over Jerusalem.

MAHMOUD AL-HABBASH, Minister for Waqf and Religious Affairs and representative of the State of Palestine, expressed deep gratitude to Turkey, as well as the United Nations and OIC, for having organized the Meeting at a time when the Palestinian people everywhere were remembering the sufferings and the Nakba, the pain felt since 1948.  Sometimes, there was a need to take a step back and look at history so as not to lose sight of what had happened, in order to look at the present and construct the future.  The Palestinians had established Jerusalem some 5,000 years ago as the “City of Peace”.  Since that time to date, many peoples and States had passed through Jerusalem, which had been occupied by many armies, but what remained unchanged was the presence of the Palestinians.  “We are not only talking about the rights of Muslim Palestinians, but also of Christian Palestinians,” he emphasized.  Jerusalem had become an Islamic city, but it had remained a Palestinian city and retained that identity.  Without Jerusalem, Palestinians lost their history and the reason for their existence.  Jerusalem was an integral part of the religious heritage of Palestinians, whatever their religious conviction, he said, adding that the city was the spirit of all Palestinians, a soul that gave them life and energy to go on living.  Without it, they would be dead, he said, adding that a Palestinian State without Jerusalem would be a dead country.

Recalling that Jerusalem had fallen to Israel in 1967, he said it had lived in sadness and suffering ever since.  Palestinians in Jerusalem and surrounding areas suffered daily repression and aggression, but that would not lead them to abandon the city or stop them from staying.  Jerusalem was occupied territory in international law and would remain so until it became free again and was restored to the Palestinian people, the only ones that had held sovereignty over the city under the United Nations resolution of 29 November 2012.  Peace would not happen without Jerusalem, and those who spoke of and worked for peace realized the truth that there would be no peace as long as the State of Palestine was not established under international law with Jerusalem as its capital.  Many painful concessions had been made for the sake of peace, but in exchange, Israel had persisted in denying the existence of the Palestinian people, historical, political or other.

The world must know that in order to protect peace, war must be prevented, and to do that, the reasons for war must be eliminated, he said.  The world must urgently compensate the Palestinian people for all the pain they had suffered.  The United Nations and the international community must now provide practical support to the Arab Peace Initiative, based on a two-State solution, a political solution presented by the Palestinian people and a solution that may become impossible or impractical in the future.  It was high time to end the injustice suffered by the Palestinian people and to rectify the injustices to which they had been subjected.  It was not Judaism for which the Palestinians were fighting, he said, emphasizing that the real problem was not one of religion, but one of occupation of territory.  Jerusalem was a city of peace for the whole of mankind and must not remain under occupation, he stressed.

Keynote Address

ADNAN AL-HUSSEINI, Minister for Jerusalem Affairs of the State of Palestine, said Jerusalem had a special character, and was referred to with love and patience, two characteristics lacking today in the modern “hostage city”.  Since 1993 to date, negotiations had been a waste of time and Israeli expansion had doubled.  Palestinians far from Jerusalem had been deprived of the right to enter the city, and there had been collective and individual expulsion of Palestinians since 1967.  Up to 600,000 families had been expelled from Jerusalem, he said, emphasizing that those practices did not fit with international law.

The “United Nations must react under Chapter VII,” he said, emphasizing that the Charter provision had no meaning unless it was put into practice.  Colonization was happening, and the settlers had come out and threatened and expelled Palestinians.  They were also threatening the demographic nature of Jerusalem in order to create their own space in the holy city.  Some 50,000 Palestinian homes were under threat of destruction under the pretext that they “did not comply with the law”.  Once everything was destroyed, the owners were expelled.  The international community, particularly the United Nations, must act to stop that destructive process and find a binding solution.  Pressure must be exerted on Israel and objective arguments made.  International intervention was called for, with pressure placed on Israel, in accordance with international standards.  “There is a solution to the problem,” he emphasized.

However, the destruction of Jerusalem’s components was continuing every day with the intention of changing the city’s nature, despite the fact that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) considered it a city of cultural heritage under threat.  “Things must not be left the way they are.  “The occupation forces are not looking for peace.  If they were they would not be doing what they are doing” regarding measures that had amputated the city.  The city of Jerusalem would “continue to fight until peace is achieved.”

WASFI KAILANI, Director, Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, Amman, said the inalienable rights of the Palestinians had been marginalized and violated by the Israeli occupation on a daily basis, as shown in dozens of United Nations resolutions.  It was important to realize that Israel’s aggression vis-à-vis those rights was part of a greater move to prevent the Palestinians from exercising self-determination.  The status quo imposed since 1967 was reducing the holy city and eroding the Palestinian way of life in Jerusalem while creating a new Jewish reality.  The true problems, including the judaization of Jerusalem’s heritage and the wall, must be pinpointed in order to support the Palestinians.  One of the Meeting’s aims was to find a solution to the question of Jerusalem, and it was to be hoped that the discussion would not affect the city’s legal situation, whether intentionally or unintentionally, he said.  It was known that the United States veto in the Security Council was a major obstacle that encouraged Israel to flout United Nations resolutions.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.