Erdogan slams Israel's stance on Jerusalem
Slamming Israel's policy of considering all of Jerusalem as its capital, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the weekend charged that Israel is violating international law by building homes in East Jerusalem, and so added pressure for a halt in construction there. "This is madness," Erdogan said of Israel's Jerusalem policy in a speech delivered on Saturday, the first day of an annual Arab League summit. The summit hosted by Libya was aimed at discussing a common strategy towards Israel's plans to build new Jewish homes in annexed East Jerusalem. "Jerusalem is the apple of every Muslim's eye ... and we can't accept any Israeli violation in Jerusalem or in Muslim sites," Erdogan said. He called Israel's decision to build more than 1,600 houses for Jews in parts of Jerusalem that it captured in 1967 "unacceptable and unjustifiable." He added, "With these positions, Israel is not just violating international law, but also human feelings and history." The US, Israel's strongest ally, as well as the European Union, Arab states and the Palestinians have condemned the construction program. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa also urged the 22-nation bloc to engage directly with Iran over concerns about its growing influence and nuclear activities. At the summit Moussa presented an engagement plan involving a forum for regional cooperation and conflict resolution including non-Arab nations, including Iran and Turkey. His plan comes as the US and other Western powers push for a fresh round of sanctions over Iran's nuclear defiance. "I realize that some are worried about Iran, but that is precisely why we need dialogue," Moussa said. Erdogan, whose government is extremely reluctant to join the US-led push to further punish Iran for its controversial nuclear ambitions, saying diplomatic means should be pursued instead of imposing new sanctions, immediately endorsed the plan. On Sunday, Erdogan and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi held a closed-door meeting which was described as productive, warm and frank. The two agreed to pursue greater cooperation between their countries.