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World leaders chastise US over Jerusalem ‘escalation’

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US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital has been met with indignation by world leaders, drawing strong criticism in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Many feel Washington’s move, announced on Wednesday after weeks of speculation, threatens to upend stability across the region and ruin any remaining prospects to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

The US also intends to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Trump confirmed in his televised address.

Here is how head of states and senior officials reacted to Trump’s announcement.

Mahmoud Abass, Palestinian Authority President, lambasted the US’ decision and stated Jerusalem is the “eternal capital of the State of Palestine”.

“The decision by President Trump will not change the reality of the city of Jerusalem and will not give any legitimacy to the Israelis on this issue,” he told reporters in a televised address.

Abass labelled the decision a “reward to Israel”, adding that Trump’s move encouraged Israel’s “continuing occupation” of the Palestinian territories.

Michel Aoun, Lebanon’s president, said the US decision threatened the peace process and stability in the wider Middle East.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri said on his Twitter account that Lebanon deplores and rejects Trump’s decision.

Expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people, “[Lebanon announces] their [Palestinian’s] right to the creation of an independent state whose capital is Jerusalem,” he added.

Jordan, meanwhile, viewed the decision as illegal because it “consolidates the Israeli occupation” of East Jerusalem.

“The decision, which pre-empts the outcome of final status negotiations, fuels anger and inflames the passions of Muslims and Christians throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds,” Mohammad al-Momani, spokesperson for the Jordanian government, said in a statement.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem at the end of the 1967 War with Syria, Egypt and Jordan, putting the entire city under de-factor Israeli control. The international community, however, has never recognised Israel’s claims to all of Jerusalem.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar’s foreign minister, said Trump’s decision was a “death sentence” for all who seek peace and “a dangerous escalation”.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the most contentious issues in the conflict and has historically been relegated to final status negotiations.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state and Israelis insisting that the city is its “unified” and indivisible capital.

Saudi Arabia said the move was a “contradiction to immutable international resolutions that emphasise the rights of the Palestinian People to Jerusalem”, in a statement made by the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Egypt condemned the decision, saying such “unilateral steps contrary to international agreements will not change the legal status of Jerusalem as it is under occupation”, in a Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement.

Kuwait’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed “profound regret” following Trump’s announcement. The move broke UN resolutions on “maintaining the political, historical, legal and humanitarian status quo in Jerusalem”, a ministry statement carried by Kuwait’s KUNA news agency said.

Emmanuel Macron, French president, said on Twitter that Paris “doesn’t approve of the decision” and “supports the two-state solution, Israel and Palestine, living in peace and security, with Jerusalem as the capital of the two states”.

Bahrain said the move “threatens the peace process in the Middle East and impedes all initiatives and negotiations to reach the hoped final solution”, in a statement made by the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Meanwhile, Pakistan said it “noted with grave concern” the US decision, which alters “the legal and historical status of the city”.

“Such a step would constitute a clear violation of international law and UN Security Council resolutions,” the Pakistani prime minister’s office said in a statement.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya has described Trump’s decision as a “flagrant aggression”.

“This decision is an uncalculated gamble that will know no limit to the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim reaction,” he told Al Jazeera from Gaza.

“We call for stopping this decision fully because this will usher in the beginning of a time of terrible transformations, not just on the Palestinian level but on the region as a whole. This decision means the official announcement of the end of the peace process.”

The Iranian government in Tehran said Trump’s decision would “provoke Muslims and inflame a new intifada”.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said “protecting the current status of Jerusalem is very important and it is important that the Islamic world act as one”.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Jerusalem remains a “final status issue that must be resolved through direct negotiations between the two parties”.

“There is no alternative to the two-state solution,” he said in a statement to reporters.

Federica Mogherini, high representative of the European Union, said the bloc has “serious concern about today’s announcement by the United States President Trump on Jerusalem and the repercussions this may have on the prospect of peace”.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May disagreed with Trump’s decision.

“We believe it is unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region … The British Embassy to Israel is based in Tel Aviv and we have no plans to move it,” she said in a statement to reporters.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of UK’s Labour party, called Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem is “a reckless threat to peace”.

“The British Government must condemn this dangerous act and work for a just and viable settlement of the conflict,” he said in a post on Twitter.

Head of Hamas in the diaspora, Dr Maher Salah warned of “severe repercussions” throughout the Arab world following Trump’s statement.

“This is an illegitimate and ill-advised decision, which contradicts international laws and resolutions, and violates the sanctity of the holy city of Jerusalem,” he said in a statement to reporters.

“It will always be a Palestinian, an Arab and an Islamic city,” he added.

Hamas will support Palestinian efforts to “liberate their homeland and establish their independent state with Jerusalem as its capital”, he said.

Tunisian labour union UGTT said the decision was a “declaration of war” and called for mass protests, while Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, described it as the “mother of all dumb moves”.

The reaction was markedly different from Israeli leaders, however.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said it was “a historic day” for the country.

Jerusalem “has been the capital of Israel for nearly 70 years,” he said in a statement.

“Jerusalem has been the focus of our hopes, our dreams, our prayers for three millennia. Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years.”

Reuven Rivlin, Israel’s president, also welcomed Trump’s announcement, saying “there is no more fitting or beautiful gift, as we approach 70 years of the State of Israel’s independence”.

He added: “The recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and the relocation of all embassies to the city, is a landmark in the recognition of the right of the Jewish people to our land.”

But Raed Jarrar, Amnesty International USA’s Middle East advocacy director, said no “country in the world recognises Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, making the decision to confer US recognition deeply troubling”.

“Not only does this decision contribute to undermining the international rule of law, it also shows a total disregard for mass human rights violations that Palestinians are facing as a result of Israel’s annexation policies.”

[Source: Al Jazeera]
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