Trump phones Arab leaders over plan to move U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

President Donald Trump informed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other Arab leaders by phone Tuesday that he intends to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a holy city whose Israeli-annexed eastern sector the Palestinians seek as a future capital.

Abbas’s office said Abbas warned Trump of dangerous repercussions for Mideast peace efforts, as well as security and stability in the region and the world.

The statement didn’t say if Trump gave a timeline for the intended move.

The White House said Tuesday afternoon that Trump will deliver remarks Wednesday outlining his decision on a potential move of the U.S. Embassy in Israel.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president is “pretty solid” in his thinking on the plan, but wouldn’t say what Trump will announce. Sanders said the president will make the “best decision for the United States.”

U.S. officials have said Trump may recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a move that could inflame tensions across the Middle East but offset a likely decision delaying his campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Trump spoke Tuesday to Middle East leaders about the decision. Trump put in calls announcing the plan to:

  • Abbas, whose spokesperson said moving the embassy would be “unacceptable” to the Palestinians. Majdi Khaldi, Abbas’s diplomatic adviser, said: “If the Americans recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel … they will have no credibility or role in this issue.” Should recognition occur, “we will stop our contacts with them, because such a step goes against our existence and against the fate of our cause.”
  • Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, who urged the United States not to take measures that could change Jerusalem’s status. The Egyptian president’s office said in a statement Tuesday that el-Sisi spoke to Trump by phone about the administration’s plans, and he urged the U.S. leader to avoid any actions that would undermine Middle East peace efforts.

  • Jordan’s King Abdullah. Jordan plans to convene an emergency meeting of Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Co-operation next Saturday and Sunday to discuss trump’s Jerusalem move, Reuters reported.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a “red line” for Muslims.

Erdogan told Turkey’s parliament Tuesday that such a step would lead Ankara to cut off all diplomatic ties with Israel. He also said he would convene a summit meeting of countries of the Organization for Islamic Co-operation to oppose any move recognizing Jerusalem.

Key Washington ally Saudi Arabia also expressed its “grave and deep concern” about possible recognition. A regional powerhouse, Saudi Arabia is crucial to any White House plans to promote a possible Mideast peace deal.

Israel Palestinians

An Israeli border police officer stands guard outside Jerusalem’s Old City in July. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has cautioned Trump about the hazards of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. (Mahmoud Illean/Associated Press)

In a statement on the state-run Saudi Press Agency, the foreign ministry said that the kingdom affirms the rights of Palestinian people regarding Jerusalem, which it said “cannot be changed.”

Israel regards Jerusalem as its capital, while other countries say the city’s status should be determined in peace talks with the Palestinians. The Palestinians claim the eastern part of the city as their future capital.

The UN said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opposes any unilateral action on Jerusalem that could undermine a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters at UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday that “we’ve always regarded Jerusalem as a final status issue that must be resolved through direct negotiations by the two parties based on relevant Security Council resolutions.”

Dujarric said the UN is waiting to see an official announcement from Trump.

The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, and have warned in the past they would halt contacts with Washington if Trump makes unilateral decisions about the status of the city.

Palestinian political factions led by Abbas’s Fatah movement called for daily protest marches this week, starting Wednesday.

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