MİDDLE EAST

Egypt's Al-Azhar hosts int'l conference on Jerusalem

Officials and figures from 86 countries attending conference

Anadolu Agency

An international conference on Jerusalem kicked off in Egypt on Wednesday amid outcry in the Muslim world over last month's U.S. decision to recognize the holy city as Israel's capital.

Officials and figures from around 86 countries are attending the conference, which is organized by Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, the highest seat of learning in the Sunni Muslim world.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen, Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, Secretary-General of the World Council of Churches Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit are among attendees in the event.

The two-day conference will discuss ways of providing support for preserving the Palestinian and Arab identity of the holy city.

On Dec. 6, U.S. President Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and ordered the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city.

The U.S. policy shift has triggered outcry in the Arab and Muslim world and a wave of protests in the Palestinian lands that left at least 16 people dead.

Shortly after the U.S. move, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayeb called for holding an international conference to discuss ways of defending the holy city.

In the same month, Turkey hosted an extraordinary OIC summit, which called on world countries to recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.

Jerusalem remains at the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem -- occupied by Israel since 1967-- might eventually serve as the capital of an independent Palestinian state.

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