Islamic diplomats in Istanbul ahead of Palestine summit

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Foreign ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states gathered on Friday in Istanbul hours before an extraordinary summit to denounce Israel's Gaza killings and the U.S. Embassy relocating to Jerusalem.

Speaking at the Council of Foreign Ministers Meeting Preparatory to the OIC Extraordinary Islamic Summit Conference, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called "the shameful incidents" in Jerusalem "the final straw."

Cavusoglu said what happened in Gaza deeply saddened everyone, adding that nobody with a conscience could remain silent on "the picture of shame" in Gaza.

"We must ensure that the Israeli authorities and Israeli soldiers who point guns at defenseless people are held accountable," Cavusoglu said.

He said the foreign ministers gathered to work on a final declaration, one which would once again stress Jerusalem’s special status.

"In the declaration at the end of the summit, we will shout out that we won't allow any change to Jerusalem's historical status," Cavusoglu said.

"As an ummah [community] in solidarity, we must give the strongest reaction to Israel's crime against humanity," he added.

'Crime against humanity'

A total of 15 OIC member state foreign ministers are attending the gathering, including Iran, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Azerbaijan, Tunisia, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt.

OIC Secretary General Yousef al-Othaimeen, for his part, said in an opening speech that what Israel did along the Gaza fence was "a war crime and a crime against humanity."

"Targeting the defenseless Palestinian people is a stark violation of international law which constitutes a full-blown war crime and a crime against humanity according to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court," he said.

“What Israel did is a kind of aggression that Israel should be held accountable for,” he added.

Al-Othaimeen went on to endorse the call by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for an international investigation into recent events in Gaza, saying:

“We support the call of the UN secretary general to open an independent and transparent investigation into the aggression Israeli occupation forces committed by its intentional targeting of disarmed civilians.”

He added: “International protection for the Palestinian people became an urgent need… as the UN's Security Council’s failure to issue a statement condemning the Israeli massacre is a shame on our civilized world.”

On the U.S. relocation of its embassy to Jerusalem, al-Othaimeen called it “a violation of international law.”

“This move has led to the aggravation of the situation, as we warned earlier on various occasions,” he added.

'Slaughter' in Gaza

Palestine's foreign minister, in turn, asserted that Israel should be held accountable for the “slaughter” it committed in Gaza.

Speaking to fellow OIC foreign ministers, al-Maliki said: “We will refer the slaughter that happened in Gaza to the International Criminal Court [ICC] next week, on Tuesday.”

“This criminal behavior must have its price and accountability," he affirmed, adding that the OIC should not allow Israel to cross such red lines on Palestine, as if this happens, “Today it's Palestine, tomorrow could be someone else's turn.”

On the steps the Palestinian leadership took following the Israeli violence in Gaza, he said: “We appealed to the UN Security Council, but the council again failed to shoulder its responsibilities due to the U.S.' hostile stance.”

“Because of the U.S., the council failed to adopt a statement regarding the Gaza slaughter,” he said, adding that “the U.S. actions represented strategic and significant threats to our collective rights that we must confront.”

As for the U.S relocation of its embassy to Jerusalem, al-Maliki said: “This move is an assault on the essence of our Umma, the Muslim Ummah."

More than 100 martyred

The Istanbul summit — called by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — is expected to issue a strong message against the Israeli violence that martyred at least 62 Palestinians — the youngest just 8 months old — during mass rallies Monday along Gaza's eastern border.

The event is expected to help Muslim leaders show a dedicated and joint stance against Israeli actions. A final declaration is to be released afterwards.

Monday’s protests in Gaza coincided with Israel’s 70th anniversary — an event Palestinians refer to as Nakba or the “Catastrophe” — and the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Since the mass Gaza rallies began on March 30, more than 100 Palestinian protesters have been martyred by cross-border Israeli army gunfire.

Last week, the Israeli government claimed the ongoing border protests constitute a “state of war” in which international humanitarian law does not apply.

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