World

US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital draws world concern

US President set to recognise disputed city as Israel's new capital

JERUSALEM: Global concern mounted yesterday over a scheduled announcement by US President Donald Trump early this morning to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, with Pope Francis joining a list of leaders warning of the potential for dangerous fallout.

The move by Mr Trump, set to come in a speech yesterday, would upend decades of careful US policy and ignore dire warnings of a historic misstep that could trigger a surge of violence in the Middle East.

A senior administration official said Mr Trump would make the announcement at 1pm (2am Singapore time) from the White House.

"He will say that the United States government recognises that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel," a senior administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"He views this as a recognition of reality, both historic reality and modern reality."

Plunging further into a decades-long dispute over a city considered holy by Jews, Muslims and Christians, Mr Trump will also order planning to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

"It will take some time to find a site, to address security concerns, design a new facility, fund a new facility and build it," the official said.

"It will be a matter of some years, it won't be months, it's going to take time."

CRITICAL ISSUE

The status of Jerusalem is a critical issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with both sides claiming it as their capital.

In a frantic series of calls, the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the European Union, France, Germany and Turkey all warned Mr Trump against the move.

Anticipating protests, US government officials and their families have been ordered to avoid Jerusalem's Old City and the West Bank.

Further warnings from world leaders came yesterday. "I cannot silence my deep concern over the situation that has emerged in recent days," Pope Francis said.

"Jerusalem is a unique city, sacred for Jews, Christians and Muslims," he said, a day after speaking by phone with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

The pontiff added that maintaining Jerusalem's status quo was important "in order to avoid adding new elements of tension to an already volatile world that is wracked by so many cruel conflicts".

British foreign minister Boris Johnson, speaking as he arrived for a NATO meeting in Brussels, said "we view the reports that we have heard with concern, because we think that Jerusalem obviously should be part of the final settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, a negotiated settlement".

China warned the plan could fuel tensions in the region and Turkey said it risked igniting a "fire" in the Middle East.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman said he had called for a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul on Dec 13 "to display joint action among Islamic countries" over Jerusalem.

Jordan and the Palestinians also called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League in Cairo, with a diplomatic source saying it was likely to be convened on Saturday.

But in a surprise, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refrained from commenting on the issue yesterday in his first speech since Mr Trump's plan was confirmed. - AFP

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