Tillerson: Jerusalem embassy move could take several years

Tillerson: Jerusalem embassy move could take several years

US secretary of state says Trump’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital did not prejudge its ‘final status,’ borders

In a possible bid to calm furious Palestinians, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday that the planned relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem would likely take several years.

“This is not something that is going to happen this year or probably not next year but the president does want us to move in a very concrete, very steadfast way to ensure the embassy is located in Jerusalem when we’re able to do so, at the earliest possible time,” Tillerson said after talks in Paris with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Listing the steps involved in moving the embassy from Tel Aviv, Tillerson said the United States needed to acquire a site, develop plans, receive congressional authorization for the spending, “and then actually building the embassy.”

A photo of the US embassy in Tel Aviv, on December 6, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

He reiterated that the move was not intended to prejudge the outcome of future peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

“The president in his statement… did not indicate any final status for Jerusalem. In fact he was I think very clear that the final status, including the borders, would be left to the parties to negotiate and decide,” he added.

His remarks came as the fallout from President Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — shifting nearly seven decades of US foreign policy — continued to reverberate, with Palestinians staging a “day of rage.”

Tillerson also met President Emmanuel Macron, who has joined a host of world leaders in condemning the move.

While welcomed by Israeli figures from across the political spectrum, Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital angered Palestinians and sparked protests across the region.

Protesters throughout the Muslim world took to the streets Friday to voice their opposition to the move and an estimated 3,000 Palestinians held demonstrations and clashed with Israeli security forces at some 30 locations across the West Bank and Gaza Strip after midday prayers.

One Palestinian was reported killed in clashes at the Gaza border, while over 200 suffered injuries, most of them light, in violent West Bank protests.

A Palestinian protester sets alight an America flag during clashes with Israeli troops at a protest against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, near the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 7, 2017. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

In addition to Tillerson’s remarks, the State Department said Thursday it did not plan to change several longstanding policies regarding Jerusalem that were carefully crafted to avoid offending one side or the other.

US government documents and maps will not be immediately change to reflect the new policy. Regarding American passports, which do not list Israel as the country of birth for people born in Jerusalem, the State Department said it wouldn’t revise the policy, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2015.

“At this time, there are no changes to our current practices regarding place of birth on Consular Reports of Birth Abroad and US Passports,” the department said in response to a query from the AP.

In a Wednesday address from the White House, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

The move was hailed by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

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