Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Australia open to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, moving embassy

The new Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison attends a news conference in Canberra Australia Au Australia considers following US on Jerusalem embassy
Kenny Thornton | 16 October, 2018, 18:01

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose government faces a crucial by-election that could weaken its grip on power, said on Tuesday Canberra was open to recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital and shifting its embassy there.

Scott Morrison said that he was considering following the Trump administration's decision to move the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which provoked an angry response from Indonesia, a strong supporter of Palestinian claims to the city.

Despite the controversial move, Morrison appeared to voice his commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison raised the issue during a phone conversation with his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, on Monday.

Israel regards all of the city - including the eastern sector it annexed after the 1967 Middle East war - as its capital while the Palestinians, with broad global backing, want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state they hope to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

On Saturday voters in a key Sydney electorate will go to the polls, with Morrison's Liberal party candidate, a former ambassador to Israel, trailing in the final stretch.

"The Australian prime minister updated [Netanyahu] that he is weighing whether to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move the Australian Embassy to Jerusalem".

The eastern sector of Jerusalem is considered to have been annexed by Israel in the 1967 war, while the Jewish State regards the whole city as its capital.

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The Palestinian mission has also slammed the announcement as "deeply disturbing".

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said she had conveyed her country's opposition to such a move to Australia.

Morrison also announced Australia would vote against a United Nations resolution this week to recognise the Palestinian Authority as the chair of the Group of 77 developing countries.

While both Russian Federation and France offered to host delegations from Israel and Palestine for renewed peace talks, on December 6, 2017 Trump announced that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

"We have recognized East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state".

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had rejected the proposal when it was urged on them by the Government's conservative wing earlier this year, in the wake of US President Donald Trump's decision to make the same move. He reiterated support for a two-state solution.

The Czech Republic's President Milos Zeman has expressed his ambition to relocate his embassy to Jerusalem, beginning with the opening of a "Czech House" in the city in November; the first step of a three-stage plan.

Netanyahu has attempted to persuade other countries to move their embassies to Jerusalem.

Australia's ambassador in Jakarta has sought an urgent meeting with Indonesian Foreign Ministry officials to explain.

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