Trump declaration on Jerusalem raises concerns outside Middle East
U.S. showing its 'incompetence,' Iran says, while China, Russia offer more measured concern
U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital on Wednesday, fulfilling a campaign promise but likely scuttling any possibility of brokering a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
While the process of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is expected to take years, and even though U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cautioned on Wednesday to "listen carefully to the entirety of the speech" Trump was planning, there was widespread concern and condemnation outside the Middle East in response to the American declaration.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said she intended to speak to Trump about the status of Jerusalem, which she said should be determined as part of a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.
May said the ancient city should ultimately be shared between Israel and a future Palestinian state. She said there should be a sovereign and viable Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution.
"The status of Jerusalem should be determined in a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians," said May. "Jerusalem should ultimately form a shared capital between the Israeli and Palestinians."
Earlier, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Boris Johnson says the decision clearly "makes it more important than ever that the long-awaited American proposals on the Middle East peace process are now brought forward."
Johnson said Britain had no plans to move its embassy.
China has expressed concerns over "possible aggravation of regional tensions" in response to the expected U.S. announcement.
Geng Shuang, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said Wednesday that China would monitor developments on the issue.
Shuang said the "issue of Jerusalem's status is complicated and sensitive" and "all sides should focus on regional peace and tranquility, act with caution, and avoid sabotaging the foundation for the settlement of Palestinian issues and triggering new confrontation in the region."
China has provided the Palestinians with financial and technical aid, but it also has built stronger ties with Israel, providing a large market for Israeli technology.
China says it views both Israel and the Palestinians as "important partners" in its "One Belt, One Road" initiative, a mammoth Chinese-funded push to develop transport routes including ports, railways and roads to expand trade in a vast arc of countries across Asia, Africa and Europe.
Germany's foreign minister is warning that any U.S. move to recognize Jerusalem as the capital would be dangerous and could deepen the Middle East conflict.
Sigmar Gabriel said Tuesday that "recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel does not calm a conflict, rather it fuels it even more," and that such a move "would be a very dangerous development."
Gabriel told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels that "it's in everyone's interest that this does not happen."
Gabriel said Germany and its European Union partners continue to support a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.
Predictably, some of the fieriest reaction came from Iran, whose nuclear deal with the U.S. and several other countries Trump has threatened to derail.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday the planned declaration serves as a sign of U.S. "incompetence and failure," according to a transcript on Iranian state TV's website. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said there was "no place for new adventurism by global oppressors," according to Mizan, the news site for the Iranian judiciary.
Khamenei also said he is convinced "the victory will ultimately be for the Islamic nation" and Palestinians, and that "the Palestinian people will be victorious" in their struggle.
Iran does not recognize Israel, and supports anti-Israeli militant groups like Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas.
Pakistan's ruling party also criticized the planned U.S. move, saying it will ignite violence in the world.
Raja Zafarul Haq, chair of the Pakistan Muslim League party, urged for speedy pressure on Trump to "refrain from complicating the Palestine issue instead taking steps to resolve it."
Speaking to reporters in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin's spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said Wednesday the "the situation is not easy."
He said Putin discussed the issue with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas late on Tuesday and expressed his concern about "a possible deterioration" as a result of Trump's announcement.
Peskov said, however, that the Kremlin would refrain from commenting a decision that has not been announced yet.
In June, the Kremlin said that in the event of a negotiated Palestinian-Israeli settlement, it would recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state and "at the same time" view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. (The small Pacific island of Vanuata and the Czech Republic have not made that geographical distinction, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel).
Pope Francis is calling for the status quo of Jerusalem to be respected, and for "wisdom and prudence" to prevail to avoid further conflict.
Francis made the appeal during his weekly Wednesday audience.
Francis declared Jerusalem a unique and sacred place for Christians, Jews and Muslims that has a "special vocation for peace."
He appealed "that everyone respects the status quo of the city," according to UN resolutions.
"I pray to the Lord that its identity is preserved and strengthened for the benefit of the Holy Land, the Middle East and the whole world and that wisdom and prudence prevail to prevent new elements of tension from being added to a global context already convulsed by so many cruel conflicts," the pontiff said.
With files from CBC News and Reuters