Global leaders regret, reject Trump recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

French president calls decision ‘regrettable’, Italian prime minister says future of city should only be decided by peace process; UN slams unilateral moves

US President Donald Trump delivers a statement on Jerusalem as US Vice President Mike Pence looks on in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on December 6, 2017. (Madel Ngan/AFP)
US President Donald Trump delivers a statement on Jerusalem as US Vice President Mike Pence looks on in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on December 6, 2017. (Madel Ngan/AFP)

World leaders and diplomats reacted with dismay after US President Donald Trump on Wednesday officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and declared the American embassy will be moved from Tel Aviv to the city.

The move addressed Israel’s long-standing claim to the city as its undivided capital, but leaders around the world warned it could harm peace efforts and spark violence.

French President Macron said the decision was “regrettable” and called to “avoid violence at all costs.”

French President Emmanuel Macron addresses the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York on September 19, 2017. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

Speaking at a press conference in Algiers, where he was visiting, Macron stressed “the commitment of France and Europe to the two-state solution, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and safe in internationally recognized borders with Jerusalem as the capital of the two states.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May firmly opposed the development and declared the UK had no intention of moving its own embassy.

“We disagree with the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital before a final status agreement,” she said in a statement from her office. “We believe it is unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region. The British Embassy to Israel is based in Tel Aviv and we have no plans to move it.”

The status of Jerusalem, she continued, “should ultimately be the shared capital of the Israeli and Palestinian states.”

“We encourage the US Administration to now bring forward detailed proposals for an Israel-Palestinian settlement.  To have the best chances of success, the peace process must be conducted in an atmosphere free from violence. We call on all parties to work together to maintain calm.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel “does not support” the decision her spokesman said Wednesday.

The German government “does not support this position because the status of Jerusalem can only be negotiated within the framework of a two-state solution,” spokesman Steffen Seibert wrote on Twitter.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he had “consistently spoken out against any unilateral measures that would jeopardize the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians.”

“Jerusalem is a final status issue that must be resolved through direct negotiations between the two parties on the basis of the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, taking into account the legitimate concerns of both the Palestinian and the Israeli sides,” he continued.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Cairo on February 15, 2017. (AFP/Khaled Desouki)

“It is only by realizing the vision of two states living side by side in peace, security and mutual recognition, with Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and Palestine, and all final status issues resolved permanently through negotiations, that the legitimate aspirations of both peoples will be achieved,” Guterres said.

European Union Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini said in a statement that the EU was concerned about the development and called for restraint by all parties.

“The European Union expresses serious concern about today’s announcement by the United States President Trump on Jerusalem and the repercussions this may have on the prospect of peace,” she said. “The EU position remains unchanged. The aspirations of both parties must be fulfilled and a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states.”

“The EU calls on all actors on the ground and in the wider region to show calm and restraint in order to prevent any escalation,” Mogherini urged.

“A negotiated two-state solution, which fulfils the aspirations of both sides, is the only realistic way of bringing the lasting peace and security that both Israelis and Palestinians deserve,” she added.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni tweeted that “Jerusalem is a holy city, unique in the world. Its future must be defined in the context of the peace process based on the two states, Israel and Palestine.”

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom came out against the US recognition of the Israeli capital tweeting it was “vital to protect Jerusalem’s special status as established by the UN and respect UN security council resolutions.”

The European Union, she noted, has a clear position on Jerusalem as “a final status issue and future capital for two states. Unilateral action on Jerusalem jeopardizes peace and stability in region and beyond.”

The Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF) issued a statement calling on Macron to follow Trump’s lead and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel

“The CRIF salutes the historic decision of US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and the upcoming transfer of the US Embassy,” the organization said in a statement. It called on Macron “to engage our country in the same courageous step” in order to “revive a sincere dialogue to achieve by negotiation a lasting peace” between Israel and the Palestinians.

American Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attends a meeting of the lobby for Israel–United States relations at the Knesset, July 25, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman welcomed Trump’s decision, tweeting that the president “displayed the ultimate test of leadership and courage by standing up for what’s just and true, even in the face of stiff opposition. Jerusalem is Israel’s capital today as it was 3,000 years ago.”

“Congratulations,” he wrote, “for this historic decision.”

Trump’s action, making good on an election campaign promise, marked a major milestone for Israel’s efforts to gain international legitimacy for its claims to Jerusalem. Israel calls Jerusalem its undivided capital, but the international community has refrained from recognizing it as such pending final status negotiations with the Palestinians, who seek the eastern half of the city as their own seat of power in a future state.

Israel’s government rejects partition of the city.

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