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Abbas wins European Union backing for Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem

Abbas wins European Union backing for Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem

In comments earlier Monday at the Prime Minister's office, Pence had said that the recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital did not mean the U.S. was abandoning the peace process. The vice president is now on a Middle East tour, with previous stops in Jordan and Egypt, where he has faced tension following the Trump administration's recent policy decisions. Pence's announcement also earned jeers from Arab-Israeli lawmakers, who were promptly ejected from the house. But all United States presidents before Trump have resisted acting on the law, signing a waiver in the national interest.

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognised internationally, and according to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.

The Palestinians have said flatly that there can be no peace deal without East Jerusalem.

Israel regards Jerusalem as its "eternal and undivided" capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem - occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war - as the capital of a future state. The European Union also wants the Palestinians to remain open to a US -led peace plan, expected to be presented soon by Jason Greenblatt, Trump's Middle East envoy and Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.

The embassy is to be opened in an existing USA facility that will be "retrofitted" to meet safety and security requirements, Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein told reporters in Washington.

He has been embraced by so-called Christian Zionists who believe the establishment of the state of Israel is proof of God keeping his promises and a step toward the second coming of Christ.

In a fresh display of Western discord over Middle East peace efforts, the United States said on Monday its Israel embassy would move to Jerusalem by the end of 2019, while its European Union allies voiced support for East Jerusalem as capital of a Palestinian state. But offering an European Union association agreement to the Palestinians was also fraught with difficulties, while Germany's Roth expressed some reservation in the closed-door meeting and Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the European Union would need to offer something similar to Israel, diplomats said.

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, will not meet Mr. Pence.

The United States Congress in 1995 passed a law requiring the U.S. to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

"Jerusalem is Israel's capital - and, as such, President Trump has directed the State Department to immediately begin preparations to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem".

Pence said he had received no blowback from world leaders over Trump's immigration comments.

The United States will transfer its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem and open a new facility next year, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told Israeli lawmakers on Monday. Others offered a more suspicious reaction.

Members of the main Arab party said earlier they would boycott Pence's appearance, referring to him as a "dangerous racist".

One of the lawmakers, Ayman Odeh, called Pence on Twitter "a unsafe racist whose whole reason for being here is in order to damage any chance of peace".

"Proud to lead the Joint List in strong, legitimate protest, against the Trump-Netanyahu regime's exaltation of racism and hatred, who speak of peace exclusively as lip service", tweeted Ayman Odeh, leader of the party staging the protest.

"Our protest today at the Knesset was done in the name of all citizens opposing the occupation and dreaming of peace".

Pence's speech drew protests from the Palestinians, with chief negotiator Saeb Erekat saying it "has proven that the US administration is part of the problem rather than the solution".

Christians make up a small minority of the overwhelmingly Muslim Palestinian population in the West Bank, but relations between the two religious groups are typically cordial and tolerant - unlike in conflict-battered Iraq and Syria, where Islamic State extremists have persecuted Christians.


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