US to begin Jerusalem embassy move preparations: Tillerson

Washington, Dec 7
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has that the State Department will "immediately" act on President Donald Trump's order and start preparations to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Earlier on Wednesday, Trump announced in a televised speech that he officially recognises Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and instructed the State Department to relocate the US embassy to the city, reports Xinhua news agency.

Tillerson, who is on a Europe visit, said in a statement on Wednesday night that the US has consulted with "many friends, partners and allies" about the relocation ahead of Trump's decision.

Though hailed by Israel, Trump's announcement immediately drew strong opposition and widespread criticism from Arab and European countries that such a move would inflame tensions and fuel violence in the Middle East.

Tillerson said that the US had taken measures to protect Americans in the region.

"The safety of Americans is the State Department's highest priority, and in concert with other federal agencies, we've implemented robust security plans to protect the safety of Americans in affected regions."

Trump's announcement marked a dramatic departure from his predecessors' foreign policy.

Although the US Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 which required the relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, former Presidents, including George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, consistently renewed a presidential waiver to delay the relocation out of consideration for national security interests.

The status of Jerusalem, revered by Muslims as the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest site by Jews, lies at the core of the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.

The international community does not recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and no foreign countries have their embassies in the city.

US decision on Jerusalem brings new conflict: Iraq

Iraq condemned US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, saying the move would put the region on the "brink of a new conflict," Iraqi Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

"We condemn the decision of US administration, which would put the region and even the world on the brink of a new conflict," Xinhua quoted Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Jafari as saying.

"This step will create an atmosphere of tension and deepen the state of violation that Palestine has suffered for a long time," Jafari added.

Iraqi Foreign Ministry on Wednesday also issued a statement and reaffirms Iraq's permanent position and support for the Palestinian cause and the rights of the Palestinian people.

No support to Trump's decision on Jerusalem: Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that Germany does not support US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel.

"The Federal Government does not support this attitude because the status of Jerusalem is to be negotiated within the framework of a two-state solution," Xinhua news agency quoted spokesperson Steffen Seibert as saying on behalf of Merkel.

Earlier on Wednesday, Trump announced that he formally recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital, while ordering to immediately begin the process of relocating the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

During his presidential campaign, Trump pledged to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Although the US Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 which required the relocation of the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, former US presidents, including George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, consistently renewed a presidential waiver to delay the relocation out of consideration for national security interests.

Decision on Jerusalem damages US credibility as peace sponsor'

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun said on Wednesday that US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital is "dangerous" and hurts the country's credibility as a peace sponsor.

Aoun said that "this decision reversed the peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis for decades and killed every attempt that has been made to bring the points of view closer," Xinhua quoted a statement as saying.

He warned that that the US decision "could cause reaction that threatens the stability of the region and perhaps the whole world."

Aoun called on Arab states to take "a unified stance to bring back the Arabic identity of Jerusalem and to restore the international resolutions and the Arab peace initiative as the only way to achieve a just and comprehensive peace that restores the rights to their owners."

For his part, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri stressed that Lebanon "refuses the Judaisation of Jerusalem and the American decision."

Hariri met at his residence with a Hamas delegation, which delivered a letter from Hamas' political leader Ismail Haniyeh.

Ali Baraka, the Hamas movement's representative in Lebanon, and Ziad Hassan, head of Hamas' political relations, attended the meeting.

Hariri said that Lebanon will take diplomatic and political measures with the Arab and Islamic states as well as the international community "to support the cause, the Arabism of Jerusalem and the refusal of the biased American decision."

Baraka said Hamas regards the US decision on Jerusalem as "an aggression not only against the Palestinian people, but also against the Arab and Palestinian nation and against the Muslim and Christian sacred sites."

"This American decision reflects the US bias towards the Zionist entity and will put the region in a new phase of struggle of which no one knows the extent," he said.

He added that Hamas calls for an Arab and Islamic unified stance to confront this American stance and to defend Jerusalem and the Palestinian cause, "which is the central cause of the Arab and Islamic nation."

UN chief opposes US decision to relocate Embassy in Jerusalem

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday that he is "against any unilateral measures that would jeopardize the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians."

"From day one as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I have consistently spoken out against any unilateral measures that would jeopardize the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians," Xinhua quoted the UN chief as saying.

"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," Guterres said.

"I understand the deep attachment that Jerusalem holds in the hearts of so many people. It has been so for centuries and it will always be," he told reporters immediately after US President Donald Trump announced the decision that the US formally recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

"In this moment of great anxiety, I want to make it clear: there is no alternative to the two-state solution. There is no Plan B."

"It is only by realising 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," the UN chief stressed.

"For my part as the United Nations Secretary-General, I will do everything in my power to support the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to return to meaningful negotiations and to realize this vision of a lasting peace for both people," he said.



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