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3 Dec, 2017 20:48

Jordan, Palestinians urge emergency meetings ahead of Trump's expected Jerusalem decision - reports

Jordan, Palestinians urge emergency meetings ahead of Trump's expected Jerusalem decision - reports

Jordan is moving to convene an emergency meeting ahead of Donald Trump's expected decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, according to diplomats. The Palestinian Authority's foreign minister has also reportedly urged a meeting.

Jordan, which hosted the last Arab League summit and therefore serves as its current president, would invite members of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to meet if Trump decides to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state, a senior diplomatic official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. The two organizations would "discuss ways of dealing with the consequences of such a decision that raised alarm and concern."

“It could ultimately hamper all efforts to get the peace process moving and holds a very high risk of provoking Arab and Muslim countries and Muslim communities in the West,” the source said.

Jordan is particularly sensitive to any change in Jerusalem's status, as King Abdullah's Hashemite dynasty is the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. Jordan, which lost East Jerusalem and the West Bank to Israel during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, says the city's status needs to be decided only as part of a final settlement. “It is essential no unilateral decisions are made that would change the historic status quo of Jerusalem as an occupied city whose fate needs to be determined in final status talks within an overall peace package,” the senior diplomatic source said.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, while the international community does not recognize Israel's claim to all of the city. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned on Sunday that any recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would jeopardize Washington's Middle East peace efforts.

"Any American step related to the recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel, or moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, represents a threat to the future of the peace process and is unacceptable for the Palestinians, Arabs and internationally,'' Abbas told a group of visiting Arab lawmakers from Israel, according to Wafa news agency.

The Arab League also warned on Sunday of "hazardous consequences" if the US recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. "If implemented, it would mark a change in Washington's historical stance that sees the holy city as an occupied Palestinian city and an integral part of the occupied Palestinian lands," Saeed Abu-Ali, assistant secretary general for the occupied Palestinian and Arab lands, said in an Arab League statement, as quoted by Xinhua.

Also on Sunday, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki asked the heads of the Arab League and OIC to host emergency meetings over the expected move by Trump. “Maliki called for holding meetings of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on the level of permanent representatives to discuss the imminent dangers facing Jerusalem and the holy sites,” Wafa reported. Maliki reportedly urged the meetings during calls with Arab League Secretary-General Ahmad Aboul Gheit and OIC Secretary-General Yousef al-Othaimeen.

Abbas's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, said on Saturday that the Palestinian president has been in contact with Arab and world leaders to rally opposition against Trump's expected decision, noting that he had been in touch with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and France. “We believe that such an American step, if it takes place, will enter the region in a new course, and a dangerous phase whose results cannot be controlled,” he said.

'Trump hasn’t decided on the move yet' – Kushner

Meanwhile, Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner said on Sunday that the president has not yet made his decision on whether to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. "He's still looking at a lot of different facts, and then when he makes his decision, he'll be the one to want to tell you, not me," he said at an annual conference on US policy in the Middle East in Washington, which is organized by the Brookings Institution think-tank.

Kushner has been holding meetings with regional leaders for months, ahead of an expected peace initiative. Details of that initiative are unknown, including whether Trump would follow in the footsteps of his predecessors when it comes to supporting the idea of an independent Palestinian state.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat urged the US on Sunday not to change Jerusalem's status. Doing so "is not only going to promote international anarchy and disrespect for global institutions and law, but it will also be disqualifying itself to play any role in any initiative toward achieving a just and lasting peace," he said.

Reports that Trump was ready to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital first emerged on Friday, with AP and Reuters citing unnamed sources familiar with the issue. However, Trump is also expected to once again delay his campaign promise to move the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, where all foreign embassies are currently located. 

Israel has been actively urging Washington to relocate its embassy. In May, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the move would contribute to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by "shattering the Palestinian fantasy that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel." The Palestinians have been adamantly opposed to that notion from the beginning, with Palestine's UN envoy stating in November 2016 that Palestinians would make life "miserable" for the US if it transferred its embassy to Jerusalem.