Paris, Riyadh warn Trump over declaration on Jerusalem

Saudi envoy says policy shift could heighten tensions in the region; top EU diplomat says announcement of city as Israel’s capital would undermine peace efforts

French president Emmanuel Macron waits for the arrival of his Bulgarian counterpart for their meeting on December 4, 2017 at the Elysee palace in Paris. (AFP/LUDOVIC MARIN)
French president Emmanuel Macron waits for the arrival of his Bulgarian counterpart for their meeting on December 4, 2017 at the Elysee palace in Paris. (AFP/LUDOVIC MARIN)

French President Emmanuel Macron and EU foreign police chief Federica Mogherini expressed concerns Monday about plans by US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, warning it could inflame tensions.

Macron spoke to Trump by telephone Monday and expressed concern about designating Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Elysee palace said.

“The French president has expressed his concern at the possibility of the United States unilaterally designating Jerusalem as capital of the state of Israel,” a statement said.

Any such decisions must be “within the framework of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, aimed in particular at the establishment of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security with Jerusalem as capital,” it added.

The Saudi envoy to the US also said that it had made its opposition to any announcement on Jerusalem clear to the White House.

US President Donald Trump (C-L) and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (C-R) stop for coffee, in the presence of First Lady Melania Trump (R), in the terminal of King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh on May 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

“Any US announcement on the status of Jerusalem prior to a final settlement would have a detrimental impact on the peace process and would heighten tensions in the region,” Saudi Ambassador Prince Khalid bin Salman said in a statement, according to Reuters. “The kingdom’s policy has been, and remains, in support of the Palestinian people, and this has been communicated to the US administration.”

Trump is reportedly considering recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital this week, breaking with decades of US policy to leave the city’s designation for a final peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians.

He is also reportedly considering moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, though officials expect him to begrudgingly sign a waiver delaying the move for at least six months.

A White House spokesperson said Monday that Trump would miss a deadline for him to sign the waiver that day.

With Trump’s decision apparently looming, leaders from across the Middle East have ramped up public warnings against any shift in decades-old US policy.

But amid internal White House disagreements and warnings from the region of a “major catastrophe,” several US administration officials were unable or unwilling to say what Trump would decide.

Mogherini told Jordanian counterpart Ayamn Safadi that the EU recognized a US announcement on the status of Jerusalem could “have serious repercussions on public opinion in large parts of the world.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (L) and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini give a press conference following their meeting at the European Commission in Brussels on March 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / EMMANUEL DUNAND)

“The focus should therefore remain on the efforts to restart the peace process and avoiding any action that would undermine such efforts,” she said, according to an EU statement.

On Sunday, Safadi warned that any change to the status of Jerusalem would have “grave consequences”, in a phone conversation with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

It was crucial, he said, “to preserve the historical and legal status of Jerusalem and refrain from any decision that aims to change that status,” the official Petra news agency reported.

The Arab League said it was closely following the matter, with leader Abul Gheit warning any such move would pose a threat “to the stability of the Middle East and the whole world.”

“It will not serve peace or stability, instead it will nourish fanaticism and violence,” he said on Sunday, noting that the League was closely following the issue and would coordinate a joint position with Palestinian and Arab leaders if Trump took the step.

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