Islamic Ministers Back Arafat on Palestinian Statehood
Muslim and Christian religious leaders joined a gathering of foreign ministers from Muslim nations for the first time Monday, demanding sovereignty over Jerusalem, part of marathon efforts by Palestinian President Yasser Arafat to rouse support for the Palestinian cause, according to The Associated Press.
Foreign ministers from 16 countries ended their one-day conference by calling for world recognition of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. They also appealed to the United States not to transfer its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, added the agency.
The group, called The Al Quds (Jerusalem) Committee, released a statement calling for “equitable peace” and continued negotiations. It did not mention a date for when the Palestinians should declare statehood.
The foreign ministers meeting in the southern Moroccan city of Agadir said in the committee's final declaration that it was opposed to any limits on Palestinian sovereignty in east Jerusalem, reported AFP.
The fate of Jerusalem and its sites holy to Christians, Jews and Muslims, is the thorniest issue dividing Israel and the Palestinians and was the prime reason for the failure of the Camp David peace summit last month.
The US and is exerting growing pressure on Arafat to make concessions on Jerusalem after the Camp David. US President Bill Clinton was to meet Tuesday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whose officials have been drawing up proposals over Jerusalem, said the AP.
Arafat refused to be squeezed, calling Jerusalem “the key to peace and war in the Middle East.”
“We refuse any sort of pressure that would lead to a sovereignty other than the Palestinian, Arab, Islamic and Christian sovereignty of the city,” he told ministers at the opening session, warning of the “danger of the 'Judaization' and occupation which hangs over al-Quds.”
“We have made sacrifices to build the peace of the brave,” Arafat added. “But that doesn't mean we will accept concessions on any of our rights on our occupied territory and, above all, on Jerusalem.”
The Palestinians were seeking a firm voice of support at the meeting in Agadir, an Atlantic coastal resort town more than 200 miles from Rabat. The Jerusalem Committee, part of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, is designed to protect the Arab and Muslim character of Jerusalem. It has never before invited religious figures to attend, added the agency – (Several Sources)
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