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Monday December 18, 2017 09:12 AM

International warnings as Trump delays Jerusalem decision

  • Published at 09:38 AM December 05, 2017
  • Last updated at 08:21 PM December 05, 2017
International warnings as Trump delays Jerusalem decision
A general view shows Jerusalem's Old City and the Dome of the Rock, December 5, 2017REUTERS

The White House said Trump would miss a deadline to decide on shifting the embassy from Tel Aviv, after a frantic 48 hours of public warnings from allies and private phonecalls between world leaders

International leaders warned US President Donald Trump on Tuesday that he risked outraging Muslims and jeopardising Middle East peace efforts if he recognised Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and moved the US embassy there.

Trump delayed a controversial decision on the ancient holy city on Monday, following frantic public warnings from allies and private phone calls between world leaders.

Jerusalem’s status is a key issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with both Israelis and Palestinians claiming the city as their capital.

Warnings multiplied on Tuesday, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warning Trump in a speech that the status of Jerusalem is a “red line” for Muslims and could even prompt Turkey to cut ties with Israel.

Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit said member states had decided to meet in Cairo “given the danger of this matter, if it were to happen, and the possible negative consequences not only for the situation in Palestine but also for the Arab and Islamic region.”

US officials said Trump was expected to stop short of moving the embassy to Jerusalem outright, a central campaign pledge which his administration has postponed once already.

But domestic politics may still push him to break with decades of US policy recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital instead in a gesture towards conservative voters and donors.

Warnings over peace drive

Trump has said he wants to relaunch frozen peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians in search of the “ultimate deal” – but recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would destroy that effort, a senior Palestinian official warned.

Saeb Erakat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, earlier warned that a change in the US stance on Jerusalem would spell disaster.

Palestinian leaders have been lobbying regional leaders to oppose any shift in US policy, and the armed Islamist movement Hamas has threatened to launch a new “intifada” uprising.

US ally Saudi Arabia voiced “grave and deep concern” over the possible move.

French President Emmanuel Macron earlier warned Trump that Jerusalem’s status must be decided “within the framework of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.”

‘Eternal capital’

In 1995, the US Congress passed the so-called Jerusalem Embassy Act recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and stating that the US embassy should be moved there.

But an inbuilt waiver, which allows the president to temporarily postpone the move on grounds of “national security,” has been repeatedly invoked by successive US presidents, from Bill Clinton to George W Bush and Barack Obama – meaning the law has never taken effect.

Israel seized the largely-Arab eastern sector of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it. It claims both halves of the city are its “eternal and undivided capital.”

But the Palestinians want the eastern sector as capital of a Palestinian state and fiercely oppose any Israeli attempt to extend sovereignty there.

Several peace plans have unraveled over disagreement on whether, and how, to divide sovereignty or oversee sites in the city that are holy for Christians, Jews and Muslims.

 

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