Latest: Warnings intensify as Trump plans Jerusalem declaration

Update 12.30pm: America's friends and foes have unleashed fierce criticism ahead of President Donald Trump's announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

While Israel welcomed the news, Palestinian officials declared the Middle East peace process "finished" and Turkey announced it would host a meeting of Islamic nations next week to give Muslim countries' leaders an opportunity to co-ordinate a response.

The Arab League scheduled an emergency meeting on Saturday.

The harsh global reaction cast questions about the feasibility of a brewing US peace plan that is expected to be presented by the White House in the near future.

The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state and fear that Mr Trump's declaration essentially imposes on them a disastrous solution for one of the core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"There is no way that there can be talks with the Americans. The peace process is finished. They have already pre-empted the outcome," said Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi.

"They cannot take us for granted."

The US decision "destroys the peace process", added Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah.

US officials said late on Tuesday that Mr Trump will recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, despite intense Arab, Muslim and European opposition to a move that would upend decades of US policy and risk potentially violent protests.

Mr Trump was expected to unveil his plan in a speech later on Wednesday.

Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said on Facebook: "Our historical national identity is receiving important expressions everyday."

Education minister Naftali Bennett, head of the nationalist Jewish Home party, praised what he called Mr Trump's "bold and yet natural" move.

"The sooner the Arab world recognises Jerusalem as our capital, the sooner we will reach real peace. Real peace that is not predicated on an illusion that we are going to carve up Jerusalem and carve up Israel," Mr Bennett said.

International leaders, however, swiftly criticised Mr Trump's plan.

Pope Francis said he was "profoundly concerned" and appealed that "everyone respects the status quo of the city".

China, which has good ties with Israel and the Palestinians, expressed concerns over "possible aggravation of regional tensions".

Russia, a key Middle East player, expressed its concern about a "possible deterioration".

Two leading Lebanese newspapers published front-page rebukes of Mr Trump.

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the "whole world is against" Mr Trump's move, and the supreme leader of Iran, Israel's staunchest enemy, condemned Mr Trump.

The state TV's website quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying that "the victory will ultimately be for the Islamic nation and Palestine".

Iran does not recognise Israel, and supports anti-Israeli militant groups such as Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who had already expressed concern about the US decision, said it was now time for the Americans to present their peace plan for the region.

Mr Trump's Middle East team, led by his adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, has spent months meeting with Israeli, Palestinian and Arab leaders.

Details of their long-awaited plan remain a mystery.

In his speech, Mr Trump is expected to instruct the state department to begin the multi-year process of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city.

It remained unclear, however, when he might take that physical step, which is required by US law but has been waived on national security grounds for more than two decades.

The officials said numerous logistical and security details, as well as site determination and construction, could take three or four years to sort out.

To that end, the officials said Mr Trump would delay the embassy move by signing a waiver, which is required by US law every six months. He will continue to sign the waiver until preparations for the embassy move are complete.

The officials said the decision was merely an acknowledgment of "historical and current reality" rather than a political statement and said the city's physical and political borders will not be compromised.

They noted that almost all of Israel's government agencies and parliament are in Jerusalem, rather than Tel Aviv, where the US and other countries maintain embassies.

Still, the declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital carries deep symbolic significance and could have dangerous consequences.

The competing claims to east Jerusalem, the section of the city captured by Israel in 1967, have frequently boiled over into deadly violence over the years.

East Jerusalem is home to the city's most sensitive Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, as well as its 330,000 Palestinian residents.

The United States has never endorsed the Jewish state's claim of sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem and has insisted its status be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiation.

The mere consideration of Mr Trump changing the status quo sparked a renewed US security warning on Tuesday.

America's consulate in Jerusalem ordered US personnel and their families to avoid visiting Jerusalem's Old City or the West Bank, and urged American citizens in general to avoid places with increased police or military presence.

AP

Update 10.55am Pope urges respect for Jerusalem 'status quo': 

Pope Francis has called for the status quo of Jerusalem to be respected and for "wisdom and prudence" to prevail to avoid further conflict.

Francis made the appeal during his weekly audience, hours before the expected announcement that the US is to recognise the city as Israel's capital.

The pope said he was "profoundly concerned" about recent developments concerning Jerusalem, and declared the city a unique and sacred place for Christians, Jews and Muslims that has a "special vocation for peace".

He appealed "that everyone respects the status quo of the city", according to UN resolutions.

"I pray to the Lord that its identity is preserved and strengthened for the benefit of the Holy Land, the Middle East and the whole world and that wisdom and prudence prevail to prevent new elements of tension from being added to a global context already convulsed by so many cruel conflicts," he said.

The Vatican has long sought an internationally guaranteed status for Jerusalem that safeguards its sacred character for Jews, Muslims and Christians.

Francis spoke by telephone on Tuesday with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, after US President Donald Trump told Mr Abbas of his decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The Vatican said the call with Francis was made at Mr Abbas's initiative.

Early on Wednesday, Francis met a delegation of Palestinian religious and intellectual leaders who were at the Vatican for a previously scheduled meeting with the Vatican's inter-religious dialogue office.

The Vatican and the Palestinians plan to create a permanent working group on interfaith issues.

In his comments to the group, Francis expressed his hope for "peace and prosperity" for the Palestinian people and called for dialogue that respects the rights of everyone in the Holy Land.

"The primary condition of that dialogue is reciprocal respect and a commitment to strengthening that respect, for the sake of recognising the rights of all people, wherever they happen to be," he said.

Francis visited the Holy Land in 2014 and later hosted Mr Abbas and the then-Israeli president Shimon Peres for an inter-religious peace prayer in the Vatican gardens.

Renewed conflict broke out in the Gaza Strip soon after.

The Holy See recognised the Palestinian state in 2015.

AP

US President Donald Trump meeting with Pope Francis in May

Earlier: Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital despite international outcry

President Donald Trump will recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital today, according to US officials.

The move, that comes comes despite intense Arab, Muslim and European opposition, would upend decades of US policy and risk potentially violent protests.

Mr Trump will instruct the State Department to begin the multi-year process of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city, US officials said yesterday.

It remains unclear, however, when he might take that physical step, which is required by US law but has been waived on national security grounds for more than two decades.

The officials said numerous logistical and security details, as well as site determination and construction, will need to be finalised first.

Because of those issues, the embassy is not likely to move for at least three or four years, presuming there is no future change in US policy.

To that end, the officials said Mr Trump will sign a waiver delaying the embassy move, which is required by US law every six months.

He will continue to sign the waiver until preparations for the embassy move are complete.

The officials said recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital will be an acknowledgement of "historical and current reality" - rather than a political statement - and said the city's physical and political borders will not be compromised.

They noted that almost all of Israel's government agencies and parliament are in Jerusalem, rather than Tel Aviv, where the US and other countries maintain embassies.

The US officials spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity yesterday because they were not authorised to publicly preview Mr Trump's announcement.

Their comments mirrored those of officials who spoke on the issue last week.

The declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital is a rhetorical volley that could have its own dangerous consequences.

The US has never endorsed the Jewish state's claim of sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem and has insisted its status be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiation.

The mere consideration of Mr Trump changing the status quo sparked a renewed US security warning yesterday.

America's consulate in Jerusalem ordered US personnel and their families to avoid visiting Jerusalem's Old City or the West Bank, and urged American citizens in general to avoid places with increased police or military presence.

Mr Trump, as a presidential candidate, repeatedly promised to move the US embassy.

However, US leaders have routinely and unceremoniously delayed such a move since President Bill Clinton signed a law in 1995 stipulating that the US must relocate its diplomatic presence to Jerusalem, unless the commander in chief issues a waiver on national security grounds.

Key national security advisers - including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis - have urged caution, according to the officials, who said Mr Trump has been receptive to some of their concerns.

Mr Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital could be viewed as America discarding its longstanding neutrality and siding with Israel at a time that the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been trying to midwife a new peace process into existence.

Mr Trump, too, has spoken of his desire for a "deal of the century" that would end Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

US officials, along with an outside adviser to the administration, said they expected a broad statement from Mr Trump about Jerusalem's status as the "capital of Israel."

Within the Mr Trump's administration, officials yesterday fielded a flood of warnings from allied governments.

Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, the head of the Arab League, urged the US to reconsider any recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, warning of "repercussions."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his Parliament such recognition was a "red line" and that Turkey could respond by cutting diplomatic ties with Israel.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he reminded Mr Trump in a phone call on Monday that Jerusalem should be determined through negotiations on setting up an independent Palestine alongside Israel.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said actions undermining peace efforts "must be absolutely avoided."

Jerusalem includes the holiest ground in Judaism, but it is also home to Islam's third-holiest shrine and major Christian sites, and forms the combustible centre of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Any perceived harm to Muslim claims to the city has triggered volatile protests in the past, both in the Holy Land and across the Muslim world.

- AP


KEYWORDS: Donald Trump

 

Join the conversation - comment here

House Rules for comments - FAQ - Important message for commenters


Most Read in World