Erdogan Vows to Defend Palestinians Against Israel's 'Annexation Project' in Holiday Message to U.S. Muslims

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a news conference, Istanbul, January 24, 2020.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a news conference, Istanbul, January 24, 2020.Credit: Umit Bektas/ Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned Israel's plan to annex parts of the West Bank and gave his support to Palestinians on Monday in a video statement to U.S. Muslims on Eid al-Fitr.  

"Last week we have witnessed that a new occupation and annexation project, which disregards Palestine’s sovereignty and the international law, was put into action by Israel," Erdogan said, while congratulating U.S. muslims on the Muslim holiday. 

"We will not allow the Palestinian lands to be offered to anyone else. I would like to reiterate that Al Quds Al Sharif [the Arabic name for Jerusalem], the holy site of three religions and our first kiblah, is a red line for all Muslims in the world," he added.

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His statement comes amid various statements from international leaders condeming Israeli's annexation plan.

Earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel will not miss a "historic opportunity" to extend its sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, calling the move one of his new government's top tasks.

Palestinians consider such a step as illegal annexation of occupied land they seek for a future state. Last week, they declared an end to security cooperation with Israel and its ally, the United States, in protest at the territorial plan.

Netanyahu has pledged to put Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank under Israeli sovereignty. He has set July 1 as a starting date for cabinet discussions on the issue, which has also raised alarm within the European Union.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called the matter complex and said it required coordination with Washington. Netanyahu's new political partner, centrist Benny Gantz, has been equivocal about de facto annexation.

Netanyahu has cited U.S President Donald Trump's plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace as underpinning de facto annexation. The Palestinians have rejected the proposal, announced in January, under which most Jewish settlements would be incorporated into "contiguous Israeli territory".

Palestinians and most countries view the settlements on land Israel took in the 1967 Middle East war as illegal. Israel disputes this. Israeli critics of annexation have voiced concern it could increase anti-Israeli violence.