AMMAN — His Majesty King Abdullah warned against attempts to erase the Arab, Muslim, or Christian identity of Jerusalem or invade Al Aqsa Mosque.
Delivering an address at the plenary session of the 67th UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, the King urged the international community to send a clear message that any such transgressions will not be tolerated.
“We are extremely concerned by threats to Jerusalem and the sanctity of its Muslim and Christian holy sites,” he said, according to a transcript of the speech.
“The Al Aqsa Mosque and compound — Al Haram Al Sharif of East Jerusalem — is under Hashemite custodianship, a special role recognised by the 1994 Jordan-Israel peace treaty, and protected as occupied territory by international law,” His Majesty said (see full text of the speech).
He noted that the importance of Al Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, to “one quarter of the world’s population” is similar to the importance of the Kaaba in Mecca.
“Let me be absolutely clear, any invasion or division of the site of Al Masjid Al Aqsa would be viewed, not only as a breach of Israel’s obligations, but as profound religious transgression.
“The international community must send a clear message that such a transgression — or any attempt to erase the Arab, Muslim, or Christian identity of Jerusalem — will not be tolerated,” King Abdullah said.
He reiterated that the current challenges facing the world should not make the international community lose focus “on the crisis at the heart of the region” — the Palestinian cause.
“For almost 65 years, the Palestinian people have been the exception to the UN promise. The shelter of international law and human rights: except… not yet. The dignity of living in freedom and security: except… not yet. The right to self-determination: except… not yet. Enough.”
His Majesty highlighted that the Arab Spring demanded dignity for all and also called for an end to “exceptionalism”.
“No single issue causes greater anger than to tell an entire people that when it comes to global justice, they don’t count.
“The Arab Summer cannot bear its full fruit, until the Palestinian-Israeli conflict ends, and ends with a just peace — and a Palestinian state living side by side with a secure Israel at peace with the entire region,” the King said.
“Earlier this year, in Amman, we succeeded in getting both sides back to the table for exploratory talks. Then positive traction stopped again. Illegal settlement building and unilateral actions continue, constituting direct threats to a negotiated peace,” he warned.
King Abdullah noted that “what is needed now is the full weight of our nations, united”, stressing that the both sides of the conflict and the entire world cannot afford continued hostility and insecurity.
“There may be a rare window of opportunity, later this year, after the US elections, to achieve what both sides so urgently need: two states, at peace, Palestine and Israel — both secure, both free to look forward — on the basis of a just, comprehensive and final settlement.”
His Majesty stressed that “it is time for Israel to turn around, look to the future we share, and make a just and lasting peace with the Palestinians”.
The King also touched on the “tragic situation” in Syria, stressing that the “violence must end immediately and a transition must begin now”.
“There is no alternative to a political solution, that will end the bloodshed, restore security and stability, and preserve the territorial integrity of Syria and the dignity and unity of its people,” he said.
His Majesty also highlighted the effect of hosting over 200,000 Syrian refugees on Jordan’s scarce resources.
“This has put heavy pressure on our limited resources and our economy. Yet we as Jordanians have opened our arms, as we have many times in the past for others in need,” he noted, stressing that more international support is required to deal with the exodus.
“We are very grateful for the generous response of governments, international bodies and dedicated UN organisations. The sombre reality is, however, that more will be needed, as the camps grow more crowded with vulnerable families and the cold desert winter approaches.
“I call upon the countries of the United Nations to work together to prevent a humanitarian disaster.”
The King also condemned any act that vilifies the name of Prophet Mohammad, Islam or any other religion or uses them to justify violence.
“There are no sidelines on this issue. All of us, of every faith, everywhere, must be pro-active in promoting understanding and a much stronger global dialogue,” he said.
“In Jordan we have charted our course guided by our heritage of mutual respect and moderation. Our Arab Spring journey is one of opportunity, to accelerate home-grown reforms and achieve national goals.”
The King also outlined the reform steps taken in Jordan since the last General Assembly meeting.
“Since then, new and comprehensive constitutional amendments, as well as new laws, have created a matrix of institutions and principles to support our path of reform and democratisation. And with the new year, we will have our new Parliament, and our Jordanian Summer will begin.”