UNITED NATIONS, (APP): World leaders voiced grave concern over US President Donald Trump decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, saying it could spark further tensions in the Middle East as Palestinians consider the city as Palestine’s capital.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed that there is no alternative to the two-state solution and that Jerusalem is an issue that must be resolved through direct negotiations between the parties.
“In this moment of great anxiety, I want to make it clear, there is no alternative to the two-state solution. There is no Plan B,” Guterres told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York.
Pakistan and other Islamic nations have warned that the move would be detrimental to any peace effort, a concern shared by China and Russia and many other countries.
The lead-up to Trump’s announcement was peppered with warnings from world leaders that he was making a “grave mistake” that would erode if not outright collapse any broader peace plan in the Middle East.
But the decision moves toward fulfilling a Trump campaign promise to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem. According to American media reports, Vice President Mike Pence pushed the change in the US policy on Jerusalem, which is supported by many evangelical Christians. Trump said Pence, who stood behind the president during the announcement, would travel to the region.
Pence was “one of, if not the most, vocal advocate to the president to make the decision to, one, recognize Jerusalem, but also to ultimately move the embassy the way that he’s doing it,” a senior administration official told POLITICO, an online news service. But US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defence Secretary James Mattis were both said to oppose US President Donald Trump’s approach towards Jerusalem.
Multiple news outlets reported that the two officials warned Trump over US recognition of Jerusalem
as the Israeli capital and relocation of the American embassy to the Israel-occupied city.
“Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis opposed the move from Tel Aviv,” Reuters said in its report, citing US officials.
The Palestinian Hamas movement declared a day of rage on Friday to protest the move. The US consulate in Jerusalem issued a security warning barring government employees and their families from personal travel in Jerusalem’s Old City or the West Bank, including Bethlehem and Jericho.
“A decision such as this is both morally wrong and politically dangerous,” Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, said in a statement. “Not only is Donald Trump deliberately insulting the Palestinian people, but also Arabs and Muslims around the world. In doing so, he is relinquishing what little credibility the United States had left in a region that is already rife with conflict and division.”
Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah el-Sissi on Tuesday pushed the US not to relocate the embassy and said in a statement he spoke with Trump by phone about the issue.
The Saudi foreign ministry issued a statement saying the move would “provoke sentiments of Muslims throughout world.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meanwhile, said the US recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would be a “red line” for Muslims.
In a televised speech after Trump’s announcement, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Jerusalem
is the “eternal capital of the State of Palestine.” Abbas added that the US president’s speech was “tantamount to the United States abdicating its role as a peace mediator.”
Meanwhile, Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip staged a demonstration against the US and Israel, condemning Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement that the Palestinian people “know how to respond properly”. He added that the decision “will not change the facts of history and geography.”
As many protesters have gathered outside the US consulate in Istanbul in reaction to Trump’s announcement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry denounced the speech as an “irresponsible statement.”
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also said Trump’s recognition does not automatically make Jerusalem
as the capital of Israel.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, UK Prime Minister Theresa May, and French President Emmanuel Macron, also said that Jerusalem’s status must be resolved through direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Pope Francis, who met earlier Wednesday at the Vatican with a Palestinian delegation, voiced his own opposition to the US shift in Israel, urging a continuation of “everyone’s commitment to respect the city’s status quo, in conformity with the pertinent United Nations Resolutions.
“My thoughts go to Jerusalem and I cannot keep silent my deep concern for the situation that has been created in the past days,” the pope said. “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.”
Within the Trump administration, some saw the warnings as overblown, according to media reports. One senior White House official compared the decision to Trump’s move to pull the US from the Paris climate pact” a move that was preceded by dire warnings but was ultimate if grudgingly, accepted by world leaders.