Trump tells Mideast leaders he'll move embassy to Jerusalem; breaks with U.S. policy

Trump tells Mideast leaders he'll move embassy to Jerusalem; breaks with U.S. policy
From Reuters - December 5, 2017

WASHINGTON/GAZA (Reuters) - President Donald Trump told Arab leaders on Tuesday that he intends to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a decision that breaks with decades of U.S. policy and risks fueling further unrest in the Middle East.

Senior U.S. officials have said Trump is likely on Wednesday to recognize Jerusalem as Israels capital while delaying relocating the embassy from Tel Aviv for another six months, though he is expected to order his aides to begin planning such a move immediately.

U.S. endorsement of Israels claim to all of Jerusalem as its capital would reverse long-standing U.S. policy that the citys status must be decided in negotiations with the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordans King Abdullah,Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Saudi Arabias King Salman, who all received phone calls from Trump, joined a mounting chorus of voices warning that unilateral U.S. steps on Jerusalem would derail a fledgling U.S.-led peace effort and unleash turmoil in the region.

At the same time, a senior Israeli minister appeared to welcome Trumps decision on Jerusalem while vowing that Israel was preparing for any outbreak of violence.

Trump notified Abbas of his intention to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah said.

Abbas, in response, warned of the dangerous consequences such a decision would have to the peace process and to the peace, security and stability of the region and of the world and also appealed to the Pope and the leaders of Russia, France and Jordan to intervene.

The Jordanian monarch, whose dynasty is the custodian of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, told Trump that moving the embassy there would have dangerous repercussions for the region and would obstruct U.S. efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, according to a palace statement.

Jordan plans to convene an emergency meeting of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Trumps new Jerusalem policy, said Foreign Minister Ayman al Safadi.

Egypts Sisi cautioned Trump against taking measures that would undermine the chances of peace and complicate matters in the Middle East, a presidential statement released in Cairo said.

King Salman stressed to Trump that any U.S. announcement on the status of Jerusalem will hurt peace talks and increase tension in the region and said it would inflame Muslim feelings all over the world, the Saudi Press Agency said.

None of the leaders statements said whether Trump, who was also due to talk to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, specified the timing of an embassy move, a notion that successive Israeli governments have supported.

But U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Trump was expected to sign a national security waiver - as have his predecessors - keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv for another six months but would commit to expediting a move. It was unclear, however, whether he would set a date.

Trump, who promised during the 2016 presidential campaign to move the embassy to Jerusalem and is expected to announce his decision in a speech on Wednesday, appears intent on satisfying the pro-Israel, right-wing base that helped him win the presidency.

Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed it, a move not recognized internationally.



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