Pakistan to seek OIC, UN sessions on the issue
ISLAMABAD – Pakistan has intensified efforts to call an emergency session of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the United Nations General Assembly to stop the United States from moving its embassy to Jerusalem in Israel, officials said.
Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Pakistan had contacted the Muslim-majority countries, seeking their support against the controversial US decision that could threaten peace.
One official said: “We are in contact with the Arab countries, Turkey and others to discuss the issue again at the OIC and UN forums. Shifting of the US embassy to the disputed Jerusalem will only complicate the Palestine issue. Almost the entire world has rejected this decision (of the US).”
The official said that emergency OIC and UNGA sessions would put pressure on the US to at least delay its plan.
Over the weekend, the US announced it will officially move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem by May. Under the new arrangement, signed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on February 22, Ambassador David Friedman and a small group of staff will take up work in an existing US consulate in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood in May, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding. Expansion of the facility will take place by the end of 2019, the US State Department said.
US President Donald Trump announced in December 2017 that he was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and would move the embassy there from Tel Aviv. Last month, Vice President Mike Pence had told the Israeli parliament that the embassy move would take place in 2019 but the Trump administration has announced a new schedule.
Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a controversial decision as the eastern part of the city – home to some of the holiest ancient sites in Judaism, Christianity and Islam – is also claimed by Palestinians as the capital of a future state.
President Trump’s decision provoked protests in the Muslim world. The OIC session in December last year condemned the decision while the UNGA voted 128-9 to reject the plan. Only nine states, including the US and Israel, voted in favour of Washington. The other countries which supported the US were Togo, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Marshall Islands, Guatemala and Honduras.
Pakistan had reacted strongly to the US decision saying it is “deeply regrettable that pleas from states across the globe not to alter the legal and historical status of Al-Quds Al-Sharif have been ignored, more out of choice than necessity.”
A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said: “This decision represents a serious violation of international law and applicable UN Security Council resolutions, more specifically UNSCR 478. It is a serious setback to the rule of law and international norms. It signals a severe blow to the Middle East peace process as well.”
Washington is Israel’s key ally and provides more than $3 billion annually in defence aid. Former US president Barack Obama was ‘frustrated’ with Israel’s new settlements but Trump has taken a U-turn.
Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohammed Asif condemned President Trump’s announcement of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The minister said the decision of shifting US embassy will alter the status of Jerusalem.
He said that Trump’s decision was an affront to Palestinians and the Muslims across the world and “is practically burying the two states solution. This will add another wound to already bleeding body of Muslim Ummah (nation).”
Another official at the foreign ministry said Turkey and Pakistan were playing a lead role together to challenge Trump’s decision.
“Time will tell how successful we are, but the issue is being highlighted by Pakistan at all levels. We will seek another snub from the UN and OIC (to the US) besides taking it up at the independently. If they move the embassy in May, it will be a slap in the face of the Muslims who have been supporting the Palestine cause. All the Muslim-majority countries including Saudi Arabia have a unanimous view on this issue,” he said.
Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said the US should respect the call from around the world to change its decision on Jerusalem. “Pakistan cannot accept this move. It will threaten peace,” he maintained.