By Humeyra Atilgan Buyukovali
Turkey’s president on Monday made an appeal for more Muslims to visit Jerusalem in support of Palestinians.
"We, as Muslims, should be visiting Al-Quds [Jerusalem] more often," Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during the opening ceremony of the International Forum on Al-Quds Waqfs, held in Istanbul.
Nearly 600,000 Americans, 400,000 Russians and 300,000 French citizens visited Jerusalem in 2015, Erdogan said.
However, although Turkey had the highest numbers of visitors to Jerusalem from among Muslim countries -- at around 26,000 -- Erdogan asked why “hundreds of thousands” of Muslims should not also visit.
The president said such visits "would be the greatest support to our brothers there".
Speaking about the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine, Erdogan said permanent peace in the wider region would be impossible “without a fair solution to the Palestinian issue".
Describing Israeli practices as "racist" and "discriminatory," he said the embargo on Gaza by Israel "has no place in humanity".
"Here is the only solution," he stressed: "The establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of 1967."
Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967. It unilaterally annexed the entire city in 1980, claiming it as its “eternal and undivided” capital in a move never recognized by the international community.
Erdogan said Turkey would continue to support "the diplomatic efforts led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas" and called on the international community to "show needed care" on Al-Quds-related issues.
"Al-Quds is holy for all three divine religions," he said, adding: "It is the heart and summary of all human history."
Erdogan added: "Both in terms of our religion and historical responsibility, Al-Quds and the fight of our Palestinian brothers for rights and justice is of great importance to us. We will keep making efforts for Quds to turn into a city of peace."
Among those efforts, he said, is to revive the waqfs, or foundations, which he said had a "significant role" in protecting the Palestinian spirit.
Monday's forum on Al-Quds waqfs aims to bring together trusts working on Jerusalem from all over the world and to establish links and to explore opportunities for cooperation among them.
New Hamas charter
About the new charter that Hamas released recently, Erdogan said: "I find it a significant step over the negotiation process between Hamas and Fatah.
“The document went beyond the ordinary. I hope Palestine's fight for rights and freedoms will get stronger from now on," he added.
The new document no longer pledges Israel's destruction, and accepts a Palestinian state along the borders set before Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
The Gaza Strip-based movement also accepted the Palestine Liberation Organization as the "national framework" for Palestinians.
Hamas leaders have previously floated the idea of accepting a long-term truce with Israel that established a Palestinian state along the 1967 border, but the latest announcement meant it became official Hamas policy.
Israeli move to limit call to prayer
The Turkish president also severely criticized moves by some Israeli lawmakers to limit the Muslim call to prayer, or adhan, made through loudspeakers.
Erdogan said it was definitely against freedom of religion and conscience and asked: "If you have faith in your religion, why are you afraid of the adhan?"
In an address to Israeli authorities, Erdogan said: "We will not allow the adhan to be stopped in Al-Quds."
Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, in March approved a preliminary reading of a controversial bill. It would ban the use of loudspeakers to amplify the adhan -- in Israel and Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem -- between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.
The bill proposes fines on violators ranging between the equivalent of $1,300 and $2,600.
Second and third readings of the draft law must still be approved by a majority of Knesset members before the legislation becomes law.
The Al-Quds forum will continue on Tuesday with more sessions on various topics.