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World outraged as US recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

UNSC convenes emergency meeting; Saudi, Pakistan, Iran, Moscow, Britain, several other countries slam ‘unilateral decision’; Israel hails Trump, welcomes ‘historic move’; Process to shift US embassy from Tel Aviv begins
PTI/IANS
Washington | Posted : Dec 8 2017 1:39AM | Updated: Dec 8 2017 1:44AM
World outraged as US recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital triggered global flak on Thursday, including from some of America’s closest allies, amid fears that it could strengthen extremists and destroy the region’s faltering peace process.

Trump’s controversial decision Wednesday recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, reversing decades of US and international policy on the holy city, which many Arab leaders warned could trigger an upheaval in the already volatile Middle East.

The decision was promised by Trump during his 2016 campaign.

“I have determined it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Trump said in his live televised address, which was watched by millions of people across the globe including from the Middle East.

He also directed the State Department to immediately begin the process of construction of a US Embassy in Jerusalem.

“Today we finally acknowledge the obvious: That Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more or less than recognition of a reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done,” the President said.

At the same time, Trump reiterated his commitment to the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

 

STRONG REACTIONS

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said that the British government disagreed with Trump's decision, saying it was “unhelpful” for peace efforts.

“We disagree with the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital,” she said in a statement.  “We believe it is unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region.”

The prime minister reaffirmed that Britain’s embassy to Israel would remain in Tel Aviv and her government’s belief that the status of Jerusalem “should be determined in a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

“Jerusalem should ultimately be the shared capital of the Israeli and Palestinian states,” said May. “We regard East Jerusalem as part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

The United Nations Security Council has convened an emergency meeting tomorrow after Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. At least eight of the 15 members of the Security Council, including Britain and France—the two permanent members which closely align themselves on most of the global issues—joined by other non-permanent members including Bolivia, Egypt, Italy, Senegal, Sweden, Britain and Uruguay, asked for a special meeting of the top decision-making wing of the New York-headquartered world body.

The UN secretary general Antonio Guterres is expected to address the Security Council tomorrow.

Earlier in a statement, Guterres said that Jerusalem was the final status issue and must be resolved through direct negotiations.

“In this moment of great anxiety, I want to make it clear: there is no alternative to the two-state solution. There is no Plan B,” he said, adding that he has consistently spoken out against any unilateral measures that would “jeopardize” the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians.

“Jerusalem is a final status issue that must be resolved through direct negotiations between the two parties on the basis of the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, taking into account the legitimate concerns of both the Palestinian and the Israeli sides,” Guterres said.

Saudi Arabia slammed Trump’s move and called it “unjustified and irresponsible.”

“The kingdom expresses great regret over the US president’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” said a Saudi royal court statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

The decision goes against the “historical and permanent rights of the Palestinian people”, the royal court said, calling on Trump to reconsider his decision.

“The kingdom has already warned of the serious consequences of such an unjustified and irresponsible move,” the statement said.

“The US move represents a significant decline in efforts to push a peace process and is a violation of the historically neutral American position on Jerusalem.”

German chancellor Angela Merkel “does not support” the decision by US President to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, her spokesman said Thursday.

The German government “does not support this position because the status of Jerusalem can only be negotiated within the framework of a two-state solution,” spokesman Steffen Seibert wrote on Twitter.

Iran strongly condemned Trump’s decision, saying it threatened a “new intifada”, or uprising.

“The provocative and unwise decision by the US... Will provoke Muslims and inflame a new intifada and an escalation of radical, angry and violent behaviour,” said the Iranian foreign ministry in a statement on its website.

The European Union’s chief diplomat voiced “serious concern” at Trump's decision.

“The aspirations of both parties must be fulfilled and a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states,” said Federica Mogherini, referring to Israelis and Palestinians.

She added that the EU’s concern was based on Trump’s announcement “and the repercussions this may have on the prospect of peace.”

Isreali Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu termed as “historic” and a “courageous and just decision” the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by Trump, saying that it will help “advance peace.”

He said that the Jewish state would maintain status quo at the holy sites ensuring freedom of worship for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.

“This is a historic day. It’s been the capital of Israel for nearly 70 years. Jerusalem has been the focus of our hopes, our dreams, our prayers for three millennia. It has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years. It was here that our temples stood, our kings ruled, our prophets preached”, Netanyahu said in a statement.

Hailing Trump, he said it reflects his commitment to “an ancient but enduring truth.”

“Yet today’s pronouncement by President Trump is such an occasion. We’re profoundly grateful to him for his courageous and just decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and to prepare for the opening of the US embassy here. This decision reflects the President’s commitment to an ancient but enduring truth, to fulfilling his promises and to advancing peace,” the Israeli prime minister said.

Describing the US’ decision as a “new and genuine milestone” in the history of the Holy city, Netanyahu said that Jews from all over the world have always wanted to return to Jerusalem, “to touch its golden stones, and to walk in its hallowed streets.”

He insisted that the US announcement would help achieve “dream of peace.”

“The President’s decision is an important step towards peace, for there is no peace that doesn't include Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. I share President Trump’s commitment to advancing peace between Israel and all of our neighbours, including the Palestinians. And we will continue to work with the President and his team to make that dream of peace come true,” he asserted.

The Israeli premier also called upon other countries to join the United States in “recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move their embassies here.”

The Palestinian Authority warned that  Trump’s “unilateral and provocative” decision will further embolden Tel Aviv's illegal policies, aggravate the tensions and destabilise the region.

In an identical letter to the president of the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council, the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestinian Authority called on the world body to act urgently to “avert the further destabilisation of this extremely volatile situation”, which poses a threat to international peace and security.

A clear message must be conveyed reaffirming the applicable laws and resolutions and opposing this unilateral and provocative decision, which will further embolden Israel's illegal policies and measures in the city and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, said Feda Abdelhady-Nasser, the Deputy Permanent Observer of Palestinian Authority here.

“These developments totally contradict the ongoing efforts to create the conditions necessary for any meaningful negotiations for a peaceful solution,” the letter said.

Any party undertaking such actions undermines its own role in the pursuit of peace, and those concerned with the promotion of peace cannot reasonably condone such actions, the letter warned.

“We call on all States to be firm in their rejection of these actions and in their non-recognition of this unlawful situation,” Abdelhady-Nasser said.

Claiming that Trump’s decision is “in contravention of Security Council resolutions and the longstanding international consensus in this regard”, the Palestinian Authority said that the international community must reaffirm its clear, legal position on the status of Jerusalem, affirm its rejection of all violations of that status by whomever and whenever, and demand that this decision be rescinded.

“In light of the extremely regrettable decision announced by the American President, we call on the Security Council to address this critical matter without delay and to act swiftly to uphold its responsibilities and the integrity and authority of its resolutions,” the letter said.

Palestinian militant faction Hamas' spokesman Hazem Qassem said the decision “confirms what Hamas has always said that the United States has not and will not be an honest broker in any case concerning our people.”

“Our Palestinian people everywhere will not allow this conspiracy to pass, and their options are open in defending their land and their sacred places,” Hamas' chief, Ismail Haniyeh, said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday called it a “red line for Muslims.”  

Saudi media quoted King Salman as saying that “any declaration on the status of Jerusalem before reaching a final settlement would harm the peace negotiation process and escalate tension in the region.”

Israel’s neighbours, Egypt and Jordan, that have diplomatic ties with the Jewish state echoed similar sentiments.

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi warned against “complicating the situation in the region by introducing measures that would undermine chances for peace in the Middle East.”

Jordan’s King Abdullah called for joint efforts to “deal with the ramifications of this decision and to counter any action that undermines the Palestinian people’s aspirations for their own independent state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

The Arab League called it “a dangerous measure that would have repercussions” across the region, and also questioned the future role of the US as a “trusted mediator” in peace talks.

Pakistan condemned Trump's decision, describing the move as a severe blow to the Middle East peace process.

“Pakistan joins the international community in expressing its strong opposition and condemnation at the decision of the US Administration to recognize the occupied city of Al Quds Al Sharif (Jerusalem) as the so-called capital of Israel and the plan to relocate its Embassy there,” the Foreign Office said.

Pakistan said that it was deeply regrettable that pleas from countries across the globe not to alter the legal and historical status of Jerusalem have been ignored, “more out of choice than necessity.”

It said the decision represents a serious violation of international law and applicable UN Security Council resolutions, particularly UNSCR 478.

Russia expressed “serious concern” over decision, saying the move threatened security in the region.

“Moscow views the decisions announced in Washington with serious concern,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that it risked aggravating already complicated Israeli-Palestinian ties as well as security risks.

“In light of this we call on all involved parties to show restraint and forgo any action that would be fraught with dangerous and uncontrollable consequences,” the foreign ministry said.

Moscow reiterated its long-held view that a solution to the dispute over Jerusalem's status should be negotiated through “direct Palestinian-Israeli talks.”

Moscow said earlier that it considered East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state, and the west of the city the capital of Israel.

Meanwhile, in his televised address, Trump said that US still wanted to see a peace agreement and would not take a position on “the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders.”

“The United States remains deeply committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both sides. I intend to do everything in my power to help forge such an agreement. There will of course be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement, but we are confident that ultimately, as we work through these disagreements, we will arrive at a place of greater understanding and cooperation,” he said in an apparent reference to the tough road ahead.

This was one of his major campaign promises.

In his address, Trump said that his predecessors have not been able to take a decision in this regard despite a decision by Congress more than two decades ago.

“In 1995, Congress adopted the Jerusalem Embassy Act, urging the federal government to relocate the American Embassy to Jerusalem and to recognise that city as Israel’s Capital. This Act was passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, and was reaffirmed by a unanimous vote of the Senate only six months ago,” Trump said.