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Middle East

Macron, world leaders regret Trump Jerusalem declaration

media Donald Trump holds up the Jerusalem declaration REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

French President Emmanuel Macron has called US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital "regrettable", amid fears the move could trigger further tensions in the Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday predicted that other countries would follow the US's example.

 

Speaking on an official visit to Algeria on Wednesday, Macron called for efforts to "avoid violence at all costs" after Trump's declaration that also included a pledge to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in the future.

He called for "calm" and "responsibility" on all sides, adding that France was ready with its partners to take all necessary initiatives in this direction

France's pro-Israel Jewish umbrella group, Crif, called on Macron to follow Trump's "courageous" example.

This comes amid a flood of angry reactions from Arab and Muslim leaders and Palestinian protests in the West Bank.

The United Nations said it would convene the Security Council to discuss the situation on Friday after eight of the 15 members called for an emergency sesssion.

Netanyahu ignores plea for restraint

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday hailed a "historic day" and predicted other countries would follow the US's example.

"We are in contact with other countries that will recognise similar recognition and I have no doubt that as soon as the US embassy moves to Jerusalem and before that, more embassies will also move," he said in a speech at Israel's foreign ministry.

Netanyahu pledged no change to the status quo at Jerusalem's highly sensitive holy sites in the city, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Israel considers Jerusalem its true capital and wants all embassies based there.

Palestinians want the capital of an independent Palestinian state to be in the city’s eastern sector, which Israel captured it the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move never recognised internationally.

Just hours after Trump's speech, the US State Department sent an official document to Israeli diplomats asking them to restrain their official responses due to fear that the announcement could spark violence against US citizens.

US government officials and their families were ordered to avoid Jerusalem's Old City and the West Bank, where the mood was despondent even as the situation remained largely calm.

Palestinian protests

Countries in the Middle East and elsewhere have openly condemned the move and expressed grave concern, fearing the consequences of threatening a city that contains one of Islam’s holiest sites.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation announced a protest strike across the West Bank on Thursday, while Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that is dominant on the Gaza Strip, called for a "day of rage" on Friday.

Hamas warned that Trump had opened "the gates of hell on US interests in the region".

Hundreds of angry Palestinians in the West Bank city of Ramallah burned American and Israeli flags and pictures of Trump at demonstrations on Wednesday.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Trump's "deplorable and unacceptable" move meant that the United States was withdrawing as a sponsor of the peace process.

Anger in Muslim world

The leaders of Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Qatar all spoke out against the recognition of Jerusalem, calling it a violation of international law and diplomatic norms.

Around 100 protesters demonstrated outside the US consulate in Istanbul to express their concerns.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Tuesday that the status of Jerusalem is a "red line" for Muslims and could even prompt Turkey to cut ties with Israel.

Erdogan says Trump's decision puts the region "in a ring of fire" and called for a summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the main pan-Islamic body, in Istanbul next week to display joint action over Jerusalem.

"Such a step will only play into the hands of terror groups," Erdogan said at a joint news conference in Ankara after talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II.

King Abdullah, who had been personally informed by Trump of the move by telephone, backed Erdogan's warnings and said East Jerusalem must be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Jordan is the guardian of Islam's holy sites in Jerusalem.

While Erdogan attacked the decision, he has stopped short of directly attacking Trump, RFI correspondent Dorian Jones points out. He has suggested possible sanctions against Israel, but no punitive measures as yet against the US.

"Erdogan still sees Trump as a man he can still do business with and sees himself as similar in many ways to Trump," Jones said. "Trump has even described Erdogan as a friend."

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