ANKARA (Reuters) - President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday Turkey could go as far as breaking off diplomatic ties with Israel if the United States formally recognizes Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, a move he said would be a “red line” for Muslims.
U.S. officials have said Trump is likely to give a speech on Wednesday unilaterally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a step that would break with decades of U.S. policy and could fuel violence in the Middle East.
Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war. It later annexed it, declaring the whole of the city as its capital, a move not recognized internationally. Palestinians want Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
“I am saddened by the reports that the U.S. is getting ready to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” Erdogan said.
“Mr. Trump, Jerusalem is the red line of Muslims. It is a violation of international law to take a decision supporting Israel while Palestinian society’s wounds are still bleeding,” he told a parliamentary meeting of his ruling AK Party.
“...this can go as far as severing Turkey’s ties with Israel. I am warning the United States not to take such a step which will deepen the problems in the region.”
Israeli government spokesmen had no immediate reaction, but Education Minister Naftali Bennett, a senior partner in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government, brushed off Erdogan’s comments.
“There will always be those who criticize, but at the end of the day it is better to have a united Jerusalem than Erdogan’s sympathy,” he said.
Reporting by Ercan Gurses, Daren Butler and Ezki Erkoyun in Turkey and Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Janet Lawrence