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December 7, 2017

Tension mounts over Trump’s al-Quds plan


December 7, 2017

OCCUPIED-AL-QUDS: Global concern mounted on Wednesday ahead of an announcement by US President Donald Trump to recognise al-Quds as Israel’s capital, with Pope Francis joining a list of leaders warning of the potential for dangerous fallout.

The move by Trump, set to come in a speech later Wednesday, would upend decades of careful US policy and ignore dire warnings of a historic misstep that could trigger a surge of violence in the Middle East.

A senior administration official said Trump would make the announcement at 1:00 pm (1800 GMT) from the White House. "He will say that the United States government recognises that al-Quds is the capital of Israel," a senior administration official said on condition of anonymity.

"He views this as a recognition of reality, both historic reality and modern reality." Plunging further into a decades-long dispute over a city considered holy by Jews, Muslims and Christians, Trump will also order planning to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to al-Quds.

"It will take some time to find a site, to address security concerns, design a new facility, fund a new facility and build it," the official said, adding "it will be a matter of some years." The status of al-Quds is a critical issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with both sides claiming the city as their capital.

In a frantic series of calls, the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the European Union, France, Germany and Turkey all warned Trump against the move. Anticipating protests, US government officials and their families were ordered to avoid l-Quds ‘s Old City and the West Bank.

Thousands of Palestinians burned US and Israeli flags as well as pictures of Trump in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, while relatively small clashes erupted near the West Bank city of Hebron and a refugee camp near Bethlehem.

A range of world leaders issued further warnings. "I cannot silence my deep concern over the situation that has emerged in recent days," Pope Francis said, a day after speaking by phone with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The pontiff added that maintaining Jerusalem’s status quo was important "in order to avoid adding new elements of tension to an already volatile world that is wracked by so many cruel conflicts".

British foreign minister Boris Johnson, speaking as he arrived for a Nato meeting in Brussels, expressed concern "because we think that Jerusalem obviously should be part of the final settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, a negotiated settlement."

China warned the plan could fuel tensions in the region and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said "Muslims must stand united against this major plot." Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the main pan-Islamic body, in Istanbul on December 13 "to display joint action among Islamic countries" over al-Quds." Jordan and the Palestinians also called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League in Cairo, with a diplomatic source saying it was likely to be convened on Saturday.

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