The Speech Delivered by Ambassador Sarnıç, Consul General of Turkey in Jerusalem, At the Symposium on Jerusalem
Distinguished members of media,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a distinct honor for me to attend this meeting on a topic with utmost significance not only for the Islamic world, but also for all humanity.
I would like to thank Director General Dr. Halit Eren and his team for his valuable efforts in the organization of this meeting. It is my sincere hope that this meeting will contribute to a more solidified collective action toward this end.
Supporting to the holy city of Al-Quds and its Islamic history, art and culture has been the founding stone and a top priority for the Islamic world.
We are very proud of hosting IRCICA which was established in Istanbul in 1976.
Starting its activities in 1980 as the first subsidiary organ of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), IRCICA has been playing a crucial role in encouraging studies and stimulating international cooperation in the fields of Islamic culture by organizing numerous conferences, symposiums, exhibitions and publishing books to this end.
A significant number of these programs has always been on Mesjid Al-Aqsa and Al-Haram Al-Sharif, as the first Qibla and the third Haram as well as the departing point of the Prophet’s Night Journey for Muslims.
Al-Quds Al-Sharif is a sacred city of the same age of the history of mankind. The cultural treasures of Al-Quds Al-Sharif from its rich history cannot be reduced only to a religion or a group and protection of this treasure is a fundamental duty laid on all OIC members and IRCICA.
Organization of the Islamic Conference was established 47 years ago in Rabat for a collective response of the Islamic countries to the attacks on Mesjid al-Aqsa. Unfortunately, due to Israeli aggression and restrictions we are far away from the vision of Al-Quds becoming again a city of tolerance, peace and stability.
Israel’s persistent policy of Judaization in total contravention of international law seriously threatens the multi-cultural identity of the city. Despite our sincere efforts, the Islamic character of Al-Quds and the status of Al-Haram Al-Sharif is under attack more than ever.
The ongoing intrusions of the Israeli extremist settlers and far right extremists under the protection of the Israeli occupation forces into the Al-Haram Al-Sharif rightly led to reaction and resistance on the part of Palestinians and resulted in increased tension.
Although recently we hear from some of the Israeli leaders that the status-quo at Al-Haram Al-Sharif will be maintained, plans aimed at dividing the Haram Al-Sharif spatially and temporally pose an existential threat for the holy place.
On the other hand, there is a necessity to give an adequate reference to the term status quo. The current status quo which manifests itself with settlers’ daily incursions and Israeli de-facto control over the Haram Al Sharif is the status quo imposed by the occupation. This is also unacceptable. Israel should be forced to respect the historical status quo of Al-Haram Al-Sharif and take necessary steps in this regard.
Israel’s main policy on the Palestinian land today manifest itself in several forms such as: expansion of settlements, tampering with Islamic religious sites, excavations underneath the Al-Aqsa complex, construction of the separation wall, further confiscation of Palestinian land, forced eviction of Palestinians and revocation of their residency rights, demolition of homes and application of severe restrictions to movement isolating the city from the rest of the Palestinian territory.
Universal values and human conscience dictate each and every member of the international community to resist against the illegal practices and restrictions by the occupying power to the detriment of fundamental rights and freedom of our Palestinian brothers. This involves their basic and legitimate aspiration to statehood on the basis of 1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif its capital.
In this context, upgrading the status of Palestine to a “non-member observer state” at the UN in 2012, raising the Palestinian’ flag at the UN headquarters in New York in September 2015 and Palestine’s ongoing membership to the international organizations have been promising developments.
Today, in marking our solidarity yet again with our Palestinian brothers, we want justice, tolerance and solidarity, as three guiding tenets to peace commanded to all humanity under all three faiths of the script. We want Al-Quds Al-Sharif not to be a city of conflict but peace.
Turkey has always been sensitive in the preservation of the heritage in Al-Quds Al-Sharif and the multicultural character of the city with due respect of the populations and the shrines of each faith.
As a recent development, Turkey has been granted membership in the OIC Al Quds Committee during the 13th Islamic Summit in Istanbul. Turkey’s membership will further strengthen our solidarity.
Turkey is trying to do its utmost to support the city of Al Quds through its official agencies like TICA, the Turkish General Directorate of Religious Affairs, the Turkish Red Crescent who assume various humanitarian and development assistance projects. I cannot go unnoticed the contribution of Turkish civil society organizations in alleviating the suffering of the inhabitants of Al Quds as well.
To be more precise, Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) has already been implementing more than 20 projects to support the Palestinian people in various fields ranging from health and education to infrastructure and capacity building in East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza Strip. These projects include renovation and restoration work in the Al-Aqsa Complex in cooperation with our interlocutors.
The efforts of the civil society namely endowments and funds are also very important to this end. We believe that there is a potential to mobilize the private sectors on the international level to cooperate and accumulate their resources in order to better respond the needs of city of Al-Quds Al-Sharif and our Palestinian brothers and sisters living there.
Our Struggle in defending Palestine and the Islamic heritage on the occupied territory including Al-Quds Al-Sharif will continue unabated. Turkey will never let Quds al Sharif down and the Palestinian people feel alone.
Finally, while thanking you all for this valuable program, I would like to express my best wishes for the peace and prosperity of the people of Palestine.