Monday, 10 December, 2018

Australia 'open-minded' to moving Israeli embassy to Jerusalem - PM

Australia's Treasurer Scott Morrison attends a press conference in Parliament House in Canberra Australia's Treasurer Scott Morrison attends a press conference in Parliament House in Canberra
Ellis Copeland | 16 October, 2018, 18:01

A senior adviser to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has accused Australia's prime minister, Scott Morrison, of destroying the chances of Middle East peace in order to win a byelection, after Morrison said he might recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Defending his decision, the Prime Minister said Australia strongly backed a two-state solution but the government wanted to challenge orthodox thinkng and the "taboo" question of Israel's capital.

Morrison cited Australia's former ambassador to Israel, businessman Dave Sharma, as a major influence in the shift in policy, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. "I'm very thankful to him for this".

"No decision has been made regarding the recognition of a capital or the movement of an embassy. but at the same time, what we are simply doing is being open to that suggestion", Morrison said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a news conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia.

Morrison's openness to recognising Jerusalem and moving Australia's embassy there comes four days before a by-election in Sydney where his centre-right coalition faces the risk of losing its tenuous hold on power.

In a strongly-worded statement, Izzar Abdulhadi warned that the embassy relocation would "make Australia a pariah state" and damage "Australia's global standing and. relations with Arab and Muslim-dominated countries".

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The Palestinian Authority (PA) delegation to Australia called the potential move "deeply disturbing", warning that it should "exercise caution" and "seriously consider the consequences of any such move".

It is understood Mr Morrison told Indonesian President Joko Widodo in a text message conversation of the impending announcement before it was made to mitigate the blowback from Jakarta, while Foreign Minister Marise Payne phoned Ms Marsudi. Both the USA and the new Australian government noted that any recognition of Jerusalem would not prejudge the question of final borders (in his December 6 announcement, Trump stressed that he was "not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders").

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

Global consensus has been that Jerusalem's status should be settled in a peace deal and recognising it as a capital for either side would prejudice one party over the other. He reiterated support for a two-state solution.

Mr Trump opened the new United States embassy in the city in May. As well as the West Bank and Gaza, Israel captured the eastern side of the city in 1967 from Jordanian forces.

Morrison said the government would review the Iran nuclear deal, an Obama-era pact that Trump ditched - and Netanyahu has been pressing other countries to drop it.

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

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