In curious first, Russia recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
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In curious first, Russia recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

Taken aback, Foreign Ministry says it is studying Moscow's statement, which also calls for Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Fireworks from the Mount Herzl ceremony seen over the Knesset in Jerusalem, marking the beginning of celebrations of Israel's 68th Independence Day, May 11, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Fireworks from the Mount Herzl ceremony seen over the Knesset in Jerusalem, marking the beginning of celebrations of Israel's 68th Independence Day, May 11, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In an unexpected, unprecedented and curious move, Moscow on Thursday said it considers West Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital, making Russia the first country in the world to extend such a recognition to any part of the city.

“We reaffirm our commitment to the UN-approved principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, which include the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state. At the same time, we must state that in this context we view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said in a statement.

Russia’s surprising announcement came as US President Donald Trump considers moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It is unclear what prompted Moscow’s decision and whether other countries in its sphere of influence will follow suit.

Officials in Jerusalem, evidently taken aback by the statement, declined immediate comment on the announcement. “We are studying the matter,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the COP21 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Le Bourget, outside Paris, on November 30, 2015. Amos Ben Gershom/GPO.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the COP21 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Le Bourget, outside Paris, on November 30, 2015. Amos Ben Gershom/GPO.

At this point it is unclear whether the Israeli government would welcome the recognition of West Jerusalem as its capital, since Israel claims the entire city as its eternal united capital.

Recognizing only the Western part of it would appear to deny Israel’s claims to the eastern part, including the Old City, which it captured in 1967 and subsequently annexed. The Russian statement specifically said that Moscow views “East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state.”

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