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‘Jordanian diplomacy makes gains at Arab summit as leaders support Jerusalem custodianship’

Pan-Arab position on holy city enhances drive against US decision, a pundit says

By Mohammad Ghazal - Apr 16,2018 - Last updated at Apr 16,2018

AMMAN — Arab leaders’ stand in support of Jordan's Department of Jerusalem Awqaf as the sole legal entity to administer Al Haram Al Sharif/Al Aqsa Mosque came at a crucial time, reasserting the Kingdom's historic role as a caretaker of the occupied holy city, pundits said Monday.

Resolutions of the 29th Arab summit, which concluded in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, coupled with the summit's Dhahran Declaration, sent a strong and a clear message that stressed on the Hashemite custodianship and His Majesty King Abdullah's key role in defending Jerusalem, they noted.

The declaration issued at the conclusion of the highest-profile pan-Arab gathering followed the recent US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and during preparations by the US to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, slated for this May. The announcement was “timely”, they agreed.

"The stands of the heads of Arab states were very positive amid developments related to Jerusalem, including the US decision on the city," Fahed Khitan, a political analyst, told The Jordan Times on Monday.

"These announcements about Jordan's role were clear and assertive, bringing an end to all speculations that have been circulating recently that Saudi Arabia was planning some deal with the US to solve the Palestinian issue that might affect Jordan's role in Jerusalem," Khitan said.

At the conclusion of their summit in Saudi Arabia, Arab leaders commended the efforts of His Majesty in defending Jerusalem as he performs his role as the custodian of holy places in the city, voicing support for Jordan in the face of Israeli attempts to undermine such a role.

In the Dhahran Declaration, participants said that Jordan’s Department of Jerusalem Awqaf was the sole legal institution entitled to run Al Haram Al Sharif/Al Aqsa Mosque compound and conduct the needed maintenance and restoration works. 

They urged the international community to place pressure on Israel to end its provocative measures in the holy shrine.

“The facts that such announcements were made during the Arab summit that Saudi Arabia hosted ends all rumours and speculations in this regard,” Khitan reiterated.

Jamal Al Shalabi, a professor of political science at the Hashemite University, echoed similar remarks.

“With the announcements made in Saudi Arabia about Jordan, we have passed the stage of speculations and hearsay,” Shalabi said Monday.

“The Dhahran Declaration reflects a consensus by all Arab states and leaders that Jordan’s Hashemite custodianship of Jerusalem is historical and a natural right and responsibility of the Kingdom,” Shalabi told The Jordan Times over the phone.

“No one can cast doubt on Jordan’s role in this regard and the Arab summit’s declaration reaffirms the Kingdom’s legitimate, historical and eternal role, leaving no questions unanswered about this issue once and for good,” Shalabi said.

He added that Saudi Arabia was also keen during the summit to send positive signals to all Arab states to help reach unified stances regarding all issues of concern to the Arab world, including their position on peace in the region.

“Saudi Arabia wants a solid Arab front at this stage and so it sought decisions that help build such a front,” said Shalabi.

Arab leaders’ declaration reaffirms that the custodianship over the holy sites in Jerusalem is a mission undertaken only by the Hashemites, said Tareq Momani, chief editor of Al Rai daily.

Dhahran Declaration’s reference to the Hashemite custodianship and Jordan’s role in this regard is a success for the Jordanian diplomacy at a “very challenging” time, he said.

“Such a position paves the way for a more coordinated and focused Arab response to the US move on Jerusalem,” said Momani. 

Highlights from summit communiqué and resolutions on Jerusalem and Jordan’s pro-Palestine role

At the conclusion of the 29th Arab summit, Arab leaders:

  • Commended His Majesty King Abdullah’s and the Hashemites’ custodianship of the holy Islamic and Christian sites in Jerusalem.
  • Highly valued the Hashemite’s custodianship over holy sites in Jerusalem and rejected all Israeli attempts that seek to undermine this role, which Jordan has assumed since 1923 and was reaffirmed by a historic agreement signed between King Abdullah and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2013. The deal also stipulated that King Abdullah has the full right to exert all legal efforts to safeguard and preserve the shrines, especially Al Haram Al Sharif/Al Aqsa Mosque.
  • Considered Jordan’s Department of Jerusalem Awqaf as the sole legal entity that is in charge of administering Al Haram Al Sharif/Al Aqsa Mosque compound conducting the needed maintenance and preservation works as the only party in charge of access to Al Aqsa Mosque.
  • Voiced support for “Jerusalem Awqaf” and its role in defending Al Haram Al Sharif/Al Aqsa Mosque and protecting it from Israeli violations.
  • Condemned Israel’s violations against the Awqaf staff, including barring them from performing their job, and called for the immediate cease of such practices.
  • Condemned Israel’s confiscation of lands and the demolishing of the houses of Jerusalemites and its attempts to weaken the presence of Christians in the holy city.
  • Reaffirmed that the Palestinian cause is the Arab nation’s top priority, stressing the Arab identity of occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine.
  • Stressed the importance of a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East as a strategic Arab option embodied in the Arab Peace Initiative, which was adopted by all Arab countries at Beirut summit in 2002, and was supported by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.  The overture, they said, remains the most comprehensive plan that addresses all final-status issues, ensuring security, acceptance and peace to Israel with all Arab countries. 
  • Affirmed the illegality of the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
  • Warned against any action that would alter the current legal and political status of Jerusalem.
  • Welcomed the decision of the United Nations General Assembly on Jerusalem and thanked the states that supported it, while reaffirming continued efforts to relaunch serious and effective Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations that would end the political stalemate resulting from the Israeli intransigence. 
  • Affirmed that the Mideast conflict could only be ended through a two-state solution that guarantees the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within June 4, 1967, lines with East Jerusalem as its capital.
  • Affirmed their rejection to all unilateral Israeli steps aimed at changing the facts on the ground and undermining the two-state solution.
  • Called on the international community to implement the resolutions of international legitimacy, the latest of which is UN Security Council Resolution No. 2334 of 2016, condemning the installation of settlements and land confiscation. They also supported the outcomes of the Paris Peace Conference on the Middle East, held on January 15, 2017, which renewed the commitment of the international community to the two-state solution as the only way to achieve lasting peace.
  • Demanded the implementation of all the Security Council resolutions concerning Jerusalem, stressing the invalidity of all Israeli measures aimed at changing the features of the eastern part of the city and changing its true Arab character. 
  • Called on the countries of the world not to relocate their embassies to Jerusalem or to recognise it as the capital of Israel.
  • Affirmed the need to implement the decision of the UNESCO Executive Council issued during the agency’s 200th session on October 18, 2016. 
  • Called on the international community to bear its responsibilities regarding the Israeli violations and arbitrary measures that affect Al Haram Al Sharif/Al Aqsa Mosque and Muslim worshippers. 
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