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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Metal detector removal at Al Aqsa 'small victory in long battle for freedom'

Speaking at an extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers from Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul, the Palestinian foreign minister also warned member states 'Netanyahu will try to impose his status quo and we should prepare for the enxt round'

Organisation of Islamic Cooperation secretary general Dr Yousef Al Othaimeen (left) chats with Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al Malki during an extraordinary meeting of the OIC's foreign ministers in Istanbul on August 1, 2017. Murad Sezer / Reuters
Organisation of Islamic Cooperation secretary general Dr Yousef Al Othaimeen (left) chats with Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al Malki during an extraordinary meeting of the OIC's foreign ministers in Istanbul on August 1, 2017. Murad Sezer / Reuters

Israel's removal of metal detectors and security cameras from Al Aqsa mosque compound was "a small victory in the long battle for freedom", the Palestinian foreign minister told the main grouping of the world's Muslim nations on Tuesday in Istanbul.

But Riyad Al Malki accused Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of seeking to change the longstanding agreement whereby only Muslims are allowed to pray inside Al Aqsa mosque compound, although anyone can visit, including Jews.

"Netanyahu will try again to impose his status quo and we should prepare for the next round which could come very soon and be very nasty," he added.

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu chaired the extraordinary meeting of his counterparts from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) which Ankara had called in its current capacity as chairman of the body to discuss the crisis that erupted in Jerusalem last month.

Turkey has full diplomatic relations with Israel after resolving a crisis in ties last year but president Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains vehemently critical of its policy towards the Palestinians.

The meeting brought together foreign ministers and top officials from key Muslim nations, including Saudi foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir and his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Israel angered the Islamic world by installing metal detectors and security cameras at Al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, known as Haram Al Sharif, following a July 14 attack in which Palestinian gunmen killed two Israeli policemen.

The move sparked protests and deadly unrest, and last week the Israeli government removed the detectors and cameras.

Mr Cavusoglu said it was time Muslim countries started to help the Palestinians "not just with words but with actions".

"We must act to protect the Al Aqsa mosque and Palestine," he said. He reaffirmed a call made by Mr Erdogan on all Muslims to visit Jerusalem.

Last year Turkey and Israel ended a rift triggered by Israel's deadly storming in 2010 of a Gaza-bound ship that left 10 Turkish activists dead. The two sides have since embarked on a close energy cooperation venture to pipe Israeli gas to Turkey.

But Mr Erdogan, who regards himself a champion of the Palestinian cause, is still often critical of Israeli policy. His comments on the latest crisis have been among his toughest on Israel since the reconciliation deal.

The OIC's Saudi secretary general, Dr Yousef Al Othaimeen, meanwhile, called upon member states, financial institutions, both public and private sectors and individuals to provide all forms of assistance to the people of Jerusalem, particularly in the critical sectors, such as education, housing and health, according to the UAE's state news agency, Wam.

He said Monday's meeting was important in order to co-ordinate the efforts of OIC member states to confront Israeli plans to take control of Al Aqsa, which Israel has blockaded and isolated from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories.

Dr Al Othaimeen added that the continuation of Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people in Jerusalem placed singular and collective responsibility on the shoulders of member states who he said should assume responsibility for ending Israeli aggressions and infractions at Al Aqsa.

* Reporting by Agence France-Presse