Abbas Calls for Protection of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Ensuring Freedom of Worship

MOSCOW, September 23, 2015 (WAFA) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Wednesday called for the protection of Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and ensuring Palestinians’ freedom of worship in Jerusalem in line with the order that existed before the Israeli occupation of 1967.

“The Israeli systematic aggression against Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the first qiblah and the third of the holy sites in Islam in occupied East Jerusalem, the capital of the state of Palestine, could not serve peace, coexistence and tolerance among faiths and peoples.,” said Abbas during the inauguration ceremony of newly reconstructed central Moscow mosque.

“On the contrary, it provides a pretext for worldwide extremists who are exploiting religions for terrorizing humanity,” he added.

During his speech, Abbas stressed that Palestinian Muslims have the right to pray inside Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which belongs solely for Muslims, and slammed Israeli measures severely restricting their access to the Mosque compound and freedom of worship.

Abbas hailed the newly inaugurated central Moscow mosque as an event that conveys a clear message that reflects Russia’s spirit of tolerance and coexistence and manifests Russia’s will to openness and intercultural and interfaith dialogue in a spirit of mutual respect for diverse religious beliefs.

Abbas also hailed the inauguration of the mosque as an event that conveys a message of respect for the Arab and Islamic countries as well as Islam.

Putin described the mosque’s inauguration as “a big event in the life of all the Muslims of Russia” and highlighted cynical attempts to exploit religions for political goals.

“Attempts are being made to cynically exploit religious beliefs for political goals. We see what is going on in the Middle East where terrorists from the so-called Islamic State are compromising a great world religion, compromising Islam, spreading hatred, killing people, including priests, and barbarically destroying objects of world culture,” stated Puitn.

“Their ideology is based on lies and blatant perversion of Islam,” he added.

Putin and Abbas were joined Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev in the ceremonial opening Moscow’s new main mosque.

Abbas started Tuesday an official visit to Moscow, where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss a wide range of bilateral and regional issues, including the recent clashes over Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, settlers’ terrorist attacks against Palestinian civilians and the ongoing settlement construction.

“It is very important for us to hear your assessments, as there are many important events happening in the world right now for both our countries and the region itself,” Abbas was quoted as stating.

Abbas reportedly consulted with the Russian leader about the steps to be taken by the Palestinian leadership during the upcoming session of the UN General assembly.

“After today’s meeting we will go to the UN, so it is necessary for us to consult with you about the possible steps which may be made at the UN,” Abbas added.

Putin reportedly expressed his happiness that he had the opportunity to meet with Abbas to discuss such issues, including the situation in Syria.

Discussing the situation in the mosque compound, Abbas reportedly said: “But what’s even worse is that Israel strives to divide the Al-Aqsa Mosque between Muslims and Jews. Such a division would mean changing the time and location for prayer: Muslims would pray at one time in one location, while Jews would pray at a different time in a different location.”

Discussing the situation in Syria, Abbas reportedly said: “both our countries are concerned about the situation in Syria. We think that an important moment has come, and the political solution to the problem is close.”

The mosque, the second largest in Russia, reportedly can accommodate up to 10,000 followers. It was built with funds from many Muslim countries.

It is estimated that about two million Muslims currently live in Moscow. They come from the North Caucasus republics of southern Russia, Azerbaijan and the former Soviet states in Central Asia.