The Latest: Rex Tillerson defends Trump’s move on Jerusalem

December 7, 2017 10:18 am
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JERUSALEM — The Latest on the fallout from President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (all times local):

12:45 p.m.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has responded to criticism over President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by saying that he U.S. president is merely recognizing reality.

Tillerson defended Trump’s move on the sidelines of an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe conference in Vienna. Foreign ministers from the OSCE nations are roundly condemning the decision.

Tillerson says the United States would still support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “if that’s the desire of the two parties.” He says Jerusalem’s final status is still for Israelis and Palestinians to workout.

Tillerson says “the whole world” wants a peace process and the U.S. still believes there’s an opportunity.

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12:40 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron says he disapproves of the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, calling it a “unilateral decision.”

He says the status of Jerusalem should be part of an international decision between Israel and the Palestinians. Macron spoke to reporters in Qatar on Thursday, during a one-day visit to the country.

Macron says: “I don’t share in this decision, and I disapprove.” He added that France remains attached to “a solution of two states, Israeli and Palestinian, with Jerusalem as the capital for both of them.”

He also stressed that the “question of Jerusalem is a question of international security. The solution can only be found via negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians under the aegis of the U.N.”

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11:45 a.m.

Iraq’s government has decried the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, calling it “unjust” and urging the United States to revoke it.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in a statement on Thursday warned of “dangerous consequences” for the region’s stability and the world.

He says the U.S. should “retreat from that decision in order to stop a dangerous escalation that leads to extremism and creates an atmosphere which helps terrorism.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of Iraqis are gathering in Baghdad to protest President Donald Trump’s move.

The protest leader, Abdul-Latif al-Himaim from Iraq’s Sunni Religious Endowments, told the protesters: “Jerusalem is our identity, Jerusalem is Arab.”

He says: “You can uproot a palm tree from a grove, but you will not be able to uproot Jerusalem from our hearts and from Palestine.”

Iraq is a key U.S. ally in the region, with more than 5,000 American troops remaining in Iraq, according to Pentagon. With the backing of the U.S.-led coalition, Iraqi forces have retaken nearly all territory held by the Islamic State group since 2014.

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11:35 a.m.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says President Donald Trump “bound himself forever” to the history of Jerusalem by recognizing the city as Israel’s capital.

Netanyahu claimed other states are considering following the U.S. lead and recognizing Jerusalem. He spoke on Thursday at the Foreign Ministry.

Netanyahu says that “we are already in contact with other states that will make a similar recognition.”

He says the “time has come” and expressed confidence that others will follow suit and move their embassies to Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military said it will be deploying additional troops to the West Bank ahead of Friday, when mass Palestinian protests are anticipated in response to Trump’s move.

The army statement on Thursday says it will deploy several battalions to the territory while other troops have been put on alert to address “possible developments.”

Palestinians went on strike across the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip on Thursday and protests are expected on Friday after midday prayers.

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11:25 a.m.

The top leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas is calling for a new uprising against Israel in the wake of President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Ismail Haniyeh spoke to his followers in the Gaza Strip on Thursday and called the U.S. decision an “aggression on our people and a war on our sanctuaries.”

He says the uprising should begin Friday, the Muslim holy day.

Haniyeh then added: “We want the uprising to last and continue to let Trump and the occupation regret this decision.”

Hamas killed hundreds of Israelis during an armed uprising in the early 2000s. But Hamas’ ability to carry out attacks is more limited. Israel has imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip, and many of Hamas’ supporters in the West Bank have been arrested.

Even so, Hamas possesses a large arsenal of rockets in Gaza capable of striking many areas in Israel.

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10:30 a.m.

Saudi Arabia’s royal court, led by King Salman and his powerful son, are condemning the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

It’s a rare public rebuke by the royal court of U.S. ally and President Donald Trump.

Saudi Arabia, a regional powerhouse that could help the White House push through a Middle East settlement, said on Thursday the kingdom had already warned against this step and “continues to express its deep regret at the U.S. administration’s decision,” describing it “unjustified and irresponsible.”

Trump’s move puts the Sunni nation in a bind. The kingdom, particularly its powerful crown prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, enjoys close relations with Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner.

U.S. Embassies across much of the Middle East and parts of Africa have warned American citizens of possible protests as a result of Trump’s decision.

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9:40 a.m.

Schools and shops are closed in the West Bank, as Palestinians are protesting President Donald Trump’s recognition of contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Political groups have called for protest marches in West Bank town centers at noon on Thursday.

Trump’s dramatic break on Wednesday with decades of U.S. policy on Jerusalem counters long-standing international assurances to the Palestinians that the fate of the city will be determined in negotiations.

The Palestinians seek Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967, as a future capital. In recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Trump was seen as siding with Israel which claims the entire city.

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9:30 a.m.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is accusing his American counterpart of throwing the Middle East into a “ring of fire” by declaring the divided holy city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Erdogan also compared President Donald Trump to a “blender” that is stirring up trouble in the region.

The Turkish leader said, addressing Trump: “It’s not possible to understand what you are trying to get out of it.”

Erdogan added that “political leaders exist not to stir things up, but to make peace.”

He also said: “If Trump says ‘I am strong therefore I am right,’ he is mistaken.”

Erdogan spoke to a group of workers on Thursday who had gathered at Ankara’s airport, before he departed for an official visit to Greece.

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8:50 a.m.

Palestinians, Israelis and the wider Middle East are bracing for the fallout after President Donald Trump’s seismic shift in recognizing the bitterly contested Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was to travel to Jordan on Thursday to meet with King Abdullah II. The monarch is seen as Abbas’ closest Arab ally, and the two leaders might try to coordinate a response to Trump’s policy change.

In Wednesday’s move, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated peace failures it was past time for a new approach, describing his decision as merely based on reality to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government.

Trump also said the United States would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, though he set no timetable for that.

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