ANKARA, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) — The U.S. has “pulled the pin on a bomb ready to blow” in the Middle East with its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Thursday.
The Turkish leader harshly criticized the U.S. for its controversial decision, which has aggravated already strained relations between the two NATO allies.
“Today, more than 80 percent of our citizens are cold toward the U.S. and they are right to be so,” Yildirim said.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and promised to move the U.S. embassy there.
Trump’s decision on the contested holy city’s status was “throwing the region into a circle of fire,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday.
Political leaders should seek to achieve peace rather than stirring up destability, he noted.
The decision “completely disregards” the 1980 UN resolution on Jerusalem, the Turkish president pointed out.
It was Erdogan’s first criticism against Trump, as Ankara previously slammed the U.S. but refrained from targeting the president since Erdogan had been trying to keep his personal engagement with Trump.
Ties between Ankara and Washington had been hurt mainly because of the U.S. support for the Syria’s People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish-led militia Ankara sees as the affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has been campaigning against the Turkish government since 1984.
Turkey is also frustrated by the U.S. inaction on Ankara’s request for the extradition of U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey accuses of orchestrating last year’s failed military coup.
In addition, an ongoing trial of a Turkish-Iranian gold trader charged by the U.S. with bypassing sanctions on Iran, further fuelled Ankara’s negative rhetoric against Washington.
Turkey has a firm position on the status of Jerusalem. It always opposes Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem following the 1967 war.
In 1980, Turkey downgraded its diplomatic relations with Israel to the second secretary level after the Israeli parliament passed the “Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel.”
On Tuesday, Erdogan warned that Turkey could cut diplomatic ties with Israel if the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Ankara has long been an advocate of Palestinian rights in the international arena and providing humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.
Since Trump’s statement on Wednesday, thousands of people have gathered outside the U.S. Embassy to Turkey in protest of the decision, where they chanted slogans such as “down with America!”
All political parties at the Turkish parliament signed a joint statement on Wednesday and declared Turkey’s resolve to reject the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The ruling AKP, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) all highlighted “the absolute and unquestionable resolve of the Turkish parliament to reject this dangerous attempt.”