Jerusalem tension: New warnings over US shift on city status

Published: December 05, 2017 10:58:54 | Updated: December 05, 2017 21:47:28

French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Donald Trump walk in the courtyard as they leave after a welcoming ceremony at the Invalides in Paris, France. - Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron has told Donald Trump he is "concerned" the US leader could unilaterally recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Any decision on the contested city's status must be "within the framework of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians", Macron said on Monday.

Earlier, similar warnings came from a number of Arab and Muslim nations.

Reports say the US president will recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital this week, reports BBC.

Both Israelis and Palestinians claim the city as their capital.

The White House said Trump would miss Monday's (Tuesday in Bangladesh) deadline to sign a waiver delaying the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

But White House spokesman Hogan Gidley stressed that "the president has been clear on this issue from the get-go: It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when".

Every president, including Trump, has signed the waiver every six months since US Congress passed an act in 1995 calling for the embassy to be moved.

What's so contentious about the move?

The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of Israel's conflict with the Palestinians, who are backed by the rest of the Arab and wider Islamic world.

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

Israel occupied the area 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.

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognised internationally, and all countries, including Israel's closest ally the US, maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv.

Since 1967, Israel has built a dozen settlements, home to about 200,000 Jews, in East Jerusalem. These are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

If the US recognises Jerusalem as Israel's capital, it will put it out-of-step with the rest of the international community and reinforce Israel's position that settlements in the east are valid Israeli communities.

What has been the international reaction?

On Monday, Saudi Arabia said such a move before a final settlement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would "have a detrimental impact on the peace process".

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has urged world leaders to intervene, saying "such a US decision would destroy the peace process".

Jordan has warned of "grave consequences", while Arab League chief Abul Gheit has said such a move would "nourish fanaticism and violence".

Turkish Deputy PM Bekir Bozdag has said this would be a "major catastrophe".

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