Amid backlash, Tillerson says Jerusalem recognition just ‘reality’

Amid backlash, Tillerson says Jerusalem recognition just ‘reality’

Russia worries measure could threaten security, EU's diplomatic chief warns decision could take region 'backwards to even darker times'

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson talks to the media at the end of a NATO Foreign Affairs Ministers' meeting held at NATO headquarter in Brussels, on December 6, 2017. (THIERRY CHARLIER/AFP)
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson talks to the media at the end of a NATO Foreign Affairs Ministers' meeting held at NATO headquarter in Brussels, on December 6, 2017. (THIERRY CHARLIER/AFP)

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson responded Thursday to criticism over US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by saying that the US president is merely recognizing reality.

Tillerson defended Trump’s move on the sidelines of an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe conference in Vienna. Foreign ministers from the OSCE nations have roundly condemned the decision.

The secretary of state said the United States would still support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “if that’s the desire of the two parties.” He said Jerusalem’s final status is still for Israelis and Palestinians to work out.

Tillerson said “the whole world” wants a peace process and the US still believes there’s an opportunity.

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli forces near a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Ramallah, December 7, 2017. (ABBAS MOMANI/AFP)

Trump’s announcement sparked a Palestinian general strike and a call for a new “intifada” or uprising. The Israeli military deployed hundreds of more troops to the West Bank.

The EU’s diplomatic chief warned Trump’s decision could take the region “backwards to even darker times.”

“President Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem has a very worrying potential impact. It is a very fragile context and the announcement has the potential to send us backwards to even darker times than the ones we’re already living in,” Federica Mogherini told a press conference in Brussels.

Russia, which earlier this year recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, expressed “serious concern” at Trump’s measure, saying the move threatened security in the region.

“Moscow views the decisions announced in Washington with serious concern,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that the move risked aggravating already complicated Israeli-Palestinian ties and the security situation.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference with the Emir of Qatar following the signing of agreements in Doha on December 7, 2017. (KARIM JAAFAR/AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron said he disapproves of the US recognition, calling it a “unilateral decision.”

He said the status of Jerusalem should be part of an international decision between Israel and the Palestinians. Macron spoke to reporters in Qatar on Thursday, during a one-day visit to the country.

“I don’t share in this decision, and I disapprove,” Macron said. He added that France remains attached to “a solution of two states, Israeli and Palestinian, with Jerusalem as the capital for both of them.”

He also stressed that the “question of Jerusalem is a question of international security. The solution can only be found via negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians under the aegis of the UN.”

The EU, along with other major international powers, has repeatedly voiced deep concern this week about Trump’s declaration.

His move upends seven decades of US ambiguity on the highly contentious status of the holy city, which is claimed by both Palestinians and Israelis.

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini talks to the media during a NATO Foreign Affairs Ministers’ meeting held at NATO headquarter in Brussels, December 5, 2017. (THIERRY CHARLIER/AFP)

Mogherini, who meets Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi in Brussels on Friday and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, called for cool heads.

“What we truly need in these difficult times is wisdom and to listen to the wise voices calling for peace and peaceful reactions,” Mogherini said.

“We believe this difficult moment calls for an even stronger engagement for peace. The most urgent priority now is that all relevant actors avoid to further escalate tensions on the ground,” she added.

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