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Dec 06, 2017 10:21 PM IST | Source: PTI

Trump to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital: White House

The controversial decision could lead to massive protests in the Middle East and elsewhere, Arab leaders warned.

President Donald Trump will recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and start the process of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city which many Arab leaders warned could trigger an upheaval in the already volatile Middle East.

The controversial decision, which was promised by Trump during his 2016 campaign and appeals to his right-wing base, could lead to massive protests in the Middle East and elsewhere, Arab leaders warned.

But senior administration officials said Trump will go ahead with the major announcement from the White House tonight.

"The President would say that the US government recognises that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. He views this as recognition of historic reality," a senior administration official told reporters.

"Jerusalem has been capital of Jewish people since ancient times and modern reality that it has been the seat of government, important ministries, its legislature, the Supreme court," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In taking this action, Trump will fulfil a major campaign promise that has been made by a number of previous presidential candidates, another senior official said.

In his remarks, Trump will also direct the State Department to initiate the process of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Noting that finding appropriate land and construction of a new embassy would take at least a couple of years, officials said Trump would continue to give waiver – as required by the Congress - for not moving its diplomatic mission to Jerusalem.

Trump's action enjoys broad bipartisan support in the Congress, the official said.

The move, which is being opposed by the countries in the Middle East, is unlikely to have an impact on the two- state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, the official said.

"Trump remains committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement between the Palestinians and Israel, and is optimistic that peace can be achieved," the official said, adding that not recognising Jerusalem as capital of Israel has done nothing to achieve peace for more than two decades.

Trump recognises that the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty are subject to final status negotiations, the official said.

Trump has decided to go ahead with his plan, ignoring dire warnings from Saudi Arabia's King Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, one of his closest allies in the Middle East.

Terming it a "dangerous step", Salman cautioned the move will "provoke the feelings of Muslims around the world".

Sisi warned that the move will complicate the situation and "jeopardise the chances of peace in the Middle East".

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani criticised Trump's plan, saying it was "wrong, illegitimate, provocative and very dangerous".

Jordan's King Abdullah II said Jerusalem key to stability of entire Middle East.

Pope Francis voiced "profound concern" over the move, making a "heartfelt appeal to make everyone's commitment to respect the status quo of the city, in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions."

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today refrained from commenting on President Trump's plan to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital in his first speech since the move was confirmed.

Netanyahu, speaking at a diplomatic conference, instead focused on Israel's security and economic ties with countries globally during his speech.

The international community considers east Jerusalem illegally occupied by Israel and most countries have their embassies in Tel Aviv.

Responding to questions, senior administration officials said the President believed that the move would have no impact on the peace process and the deal is within reach and can be achieved.

Earlier, Trump spoke over phone with a number of leaders in the Middle East to share his decision on Jerusalem, the White House said.

Meanwhile, the State Department warned US embassies around the world to prepare for possible protests and violence and banned travel by government employees and their families to Jerusalem's Old City and the West Bank.
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