In rare rebuff of Trump, Saudis reject US embassy transfer to Jerusalem

After remaining mum on issue throughout day of opening ceremony, Riyadh breaks its silence, repeats condemnation of Gaza deaths

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz attends the 29th Summit of the Arab League at the Ithra center in Dhahran, Eastern Saudi Arabia, on April 15, 2018. (AFP)
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz attends the 29th Summit of the Arab League at the Ithra center in Dhahran, Eastern Saudi Arabia, on April 15, 2018. (AFP)

The Saudi Arabian government on Tuesday said it opposed the US decision to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Riyadh had remained mum on the issue Monday — the day of the move — but chose to break its silence in a departure from a foreign policy typically in line with that of Washington’s.

“The kingdom rejects the American administration’s decision to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem,” the council of ministers said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

“This step represents a significant prejudice against the rights of the Palestinian people which have been guaranteed by international resolutions,” it said.

“The government of Saudi Arabia has already warned of the grave consequences of such an unjustified move,” SPA added.

Some 800 guests attended Monday’s embassy inauguration. Representing the US at the opening were US Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, the president’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump, and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt. US Ambassador David Friedman presided over the dedication ceremony.

Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, speaks at the inauguration ceremony of the US Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin also addressed the ceremony, and other senior Israeli officials were on hand.

The council of ministers reiterated Riyadh’s condemnation of Israeli gunfire that killed dozens of Palestinians along the Gaza Strip border on Monday.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians joined violent protests on the Gaza border on Monday and hundreds of others clashed with Israeli troops on the outskirts of Jerusalem and in other locations in the West Bank, marking the 70th anniversary of what they call the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” of Israel’s creation in 1948, as well as protesting the embassy relocation.

Israel said Hamas used the border protests to try to breach the fence and carry out attacks in Israeli territory.

The Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups acknowledged Tuesday that 13 operatives from the organizations were among the 60 reported killed by IDF fire at the Gaza fence protests. Israel said at least 24 of the dead were members of terror groups.

Trump announced on December 6, 2017, that he was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would move the US Embassy to the city from Tel Aviv.

Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as their future capital and view the Trump administration’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital as a show of pro-Israel bias.

The Saudi ministers also renewed their country’s support for the US decision to leave the Iran nuclear agreement, accusing Tehran of leveraging economic gains from sanctions relief to “continue its destabilizing activities” in the Middle East.

While Europe is leading efforts to save the nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers, Iran’s regional rivals Israel and Saudi Arabia have both welcomed Washington’s withdrawal.

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