US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv has been met with a wave of disapproval.

Leaders from within the Arab and Muslim worlds, and from the wider international community, were swift to criticise the move. Some warned of the potential for violence and bloodshed as a result.

The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.

The city is home to key religious sites sacred to Judaism, Islam and Christianity, especially in East Jerusalem.

Israel occupied the sector, previously occupied by Jordan, in the 1967 Middle East war and regards the entire city as its indivisible capital.

The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, and according to 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, its final status is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.

Mr Trump said his decision was a “recognition of reality”, and that the US was “not taking a position on any final status issues”.

Palestinians

President Mahmoud Abbas said the decision was tantamount to the US “abdicating its role as a peace mediator”.

“These deplorable and unacceptable measures deliberately undermine all peace efforts,” he said in a speech broadcast after Mr Trump’s announcement.

He insisted that Jerusalem was the “eternal capital of the state of Palestine”.

The leader of the Islamist movement Hamas, Ismail Haniya, called for a new “intifada”, or uprising.

“The American decision is an aggression against our people. It’s a declaration of war against our Palestinian people,” he told a news conference in Gaza.

“We should call for and we should work on launching an intifada in the face of the Zionist enemy,” he added.

Israelis

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that the US announcement was a “historic landmark” and that Mr Trump’s decision was “courageous and just”.

Mr Netanyahu said the speech was “an important step towards peace, for there is no peace that doesn’t include Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel”. The city had “been the capital of Israel for nearly 70 years”, he added.

In a speech on Thursday, he said: “President Trump has inscribed himself in the annals of our capital for all time.”

“His name will now be linked to the names of others in the context of the glorious history of Jerusalem and our people… We are already in contacts with other countries that will declare similar recognition,” he said, adding: “It’s about time.”

Muslim world

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the move, saying it was “throwing the region into a ring of fire”.

“What do you want to do Mr Trump? What kind of an approach is this? Political leaders exist not to create struggles but to make peace,” he said.

His Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu wrote on Twitter that “the decision is against international law and relevant UN resolutions”.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman told Mr Trump by telephone on Tuesday that the relocation of the embassy or recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “would constitute a flagrant provocation of Muslims, all over the world”.

On Thursday, a Saudi royal court statement called Mr Trump’s decision “unjustified and irresponsible”.

“The US move represents a significant decline in efforts to push a peace process and is a violation of the historically neutral American position on Jerusalem.”

Those views were echoed by Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, who warned against “complicating the situation in the region by introducing measures that would undermine chances for peace in the Middle East”.

The Arab League called it “a dangerous measure that would have repercussions” across the region, and also questioned the future role of the US as a “trusted mediator” in peace talks.

Iran said the decision risked a “new intifada”, or uprising. Its foreign ministry said the US had clearly violated international resolutions.

Meanwhile, Jordan’s King Abdullah called for joint efforts to “deal with the ramifications of this decision” and a Jordanian government spokesman said Mr Trump was violating international law and the UN charter.

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said the peace process would be set back decades, while Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani said the move was “a death sentence for all who seek peace”.

International community

Pope Francis said: “I cannot silence my deep concern over the situation that has emerged in recent days. At the same time, I appeal strongly for all to respect the city’s status quo, in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions.”

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said President Trump’s statement “would jeopardise the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians”.

Mr Guterres said Jerusalem was “a final status issue that must be resolved through direct negotiations between the two parties”.

Such negotiations must take “into account the legitimate concerns of both the Palestinians and the Israeli sides,” he said.

The European Union called for the “resumption of a meaningful peace process towards a two-state solution” and said “a way must be found, through negotiations, to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states, so that the aspiration of both parties can be fulfilled”.

EU Foreign Policy Chief, Federica Mogherini said the announcement “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 are already living in,” she added.

“The worst thing that could happen now is an escalation of tensions around the holy places and in the region because what happens in Jerusalem matters to the whole region and the entire world.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said Mr Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was “regrettable”. He called efforts for “avoid violence at all costs.”

German ChancellorAngela Merkel‘s spokesman said on Twitter that Berlin “does not support this position because the status of Jerusalem can only be negotiated within the framework of a two-state solution”.

Both China and Russia also expressed their concern that the move could lead to an escalation of tensions in the region.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said her government disagreed with the US decision, which was “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,” a statement said.

“Our position on the status of Jerusalem is clear and longstanding: it should be determined in a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and Jerusalem should ultimately be the shared capital of the Israeli and Palestinian states. In line with relevant [UN] Security Council Resolutions, we regard East Jerusalem as part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said the move was “reckless” and had taken a “hammer blow” to the peace process. “He is setting it back decades,” she added.

BBC

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