Australia mulling embassy move to Jerusalem - PM

Elias Hubbard
October 16, 2018

Australia will reconsider its support for Iran's nuclear deal and is open to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and shifting its embassy there, Australia's Prime Minister said on Tuesday.

Morrison denied that the United States or the by-election had influenced his announcement. He is a former Australian ambassador to Israel.

Why is this move so important?

The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest obstacles to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel regards all of the city - including the eastern sector it annexed after the 1967 Middle East war - as its capital while the Palestinians, with broad global backing, want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state they hope to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. "The holy city has been at the centre of peace-making efforts for decades".

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had rejected the proposal when it was urged on them by the Government's conservative wing earlier this year, in the wake of US President Donald Trump's decision to make the same move.

If acted upon, the move would follow a recent policy shift by the U.S. that has drawn criticism internationally.

The new USA embassy opened in Jerusalem in May this year, leading to protests and deadly reprisals.

He said the questions of where the embassy would be located and when it was moved were "longer term considerations". Fifty-eight Palestinians were killed and 1,2000 wounded during the protests in Gaza.

The United States, Guatemala and Paraguay all moved their embassies to Jerusalem in May, though Paraguay moved its embassy back to Tel Aviv just three months later. Israel closed its embassy in Asuncion in response.

What will the likely reaction be?

If Australia does proceed, it will be following the United States which earlier this year moved its embassy, effectively recognising the holy city of Jerusalem as the "true" capital of Israel.

I spoke today with Australian PM @ScottMorrisonMP.

"The whole point of a two-state solution is two nations recognised living side by side", he added, saying he was open to the suggestion from Dave Sharma, Australia's former ambassador to Israel, that Australia support West Jerusalem as Israel's capital and East Jerusalem as Palestine's. "We will continue to strengthen ties" between Israel and Australia.

"We do share real concerns about how Iran's capability can be a very destabilising force in the Middle East, particularly for allies like Israel, so I'm acknowledging that concern and saying the position we've held up until now continues to be our position until if we made a decision to alter it - but I'm flagging we'll be taking a close look at that".

Labor accused Mr Morrison of "desperation", with Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong saying the Prime Minister was playing "dangerous and deceitful" word games.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, and one of Australia's most important neighbours, is reportedly considering suspending a trade deal with Australia over Morrison's comments. "It has not come up in any discussion I have had with the president or with officials", Morrison said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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