POLITICS
06/12/2017 14:21 GMT

PM Vows To Contact Trump As Fears Mount Over US Embassy Move To Jerusalem

'He is declaring war in the Middle East.'

Theresa May has vowed to speak to Donald Trump amid reports he plans to formally recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by moving the US embassy there. 

The Prime Minister made it clear during PMQs in the House of Commons that Britain will not follow suit if the US President presses ahead with the controversial move.

He is expected to reverse decades of US foreign policy by shifting the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the holy city in an announcement on Wednesday. 

The planned move has already sparked protests in Palestine, while a chorus of voices have warned Trump the US appearing to abandon neutrality in the Middle East cause further unrest in the volatile region. 

May said: “I’m intending to speak to President Trump about this matter. But, our position has not changed.”

US officials have said the president will declare on Wednesday that he is to start the process of moving the country’s embassy to the holy city. 

May underlined the UK would not alter its position that Jerusalem should eventually form a shared capital for Israelis and Palestinians as part of a two-state solution.

Ammar Awad / Reuters
An Israeli flag near the Dome of Rock in Jerusalem's Old City 

The PM added: “Our position has been a long-standing one and is also a very clear one that the status of Jerusalem should be determined in a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and Jerusalem should ultimately form a shared capital between the Israeli and Palestinian states.

“We continue to support a two-state solution. We recognise the importance of Jerusalem.”

The comments came after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson voiced “concern” over the expected announcement by Trump.

He said: “Let’s wait and see what the president says exactly, but we view the reports that we have heard with concern, because we think that Jerusalem obviously should be part of the final settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, a negotiated settlement that we want to see.

“We have no plans ourselves to move our embassy.”

Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters
Palestinians burn posters depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump during a protest against the U.S. intention to move its embassy to Jerusalem and to recognize the city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip

The expected move by Trump has fuelled frustration around the world and many fear it could provoke violent protests by Palestinians who may view it as America abandoning neutrality in the Middle East peace process to side with Israel.

Manuel Hassassian, Palestinian general delegate to the UK, said the shift would “kill the peace process” and provoke a violent reaction.

He told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme: “He is declaring war in the Middle East.

“He’s declaring war against 1.5 billion Muslims, hundreds of millions of Christians that are not going to accept their holy shrines to be totally under the hegemony of Israel, let alone that East Jerusalem has always been known as ... the future capital of Palestine.

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met with Trump at the UN HQ in New York in September

“This is the last straw that will break the camel’s back. I don’t mean war in terms of conventional war, I mean war in terms of diplomacy.”

Reports of Trump’s plan sparked security warnings, with US personnel and their families ordered to avoid visiting Jerusalem’s Old City or the West Bank.

The US has never previously endorsed the Jewish state’s claim of sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem, insisting its status must be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiation.

Officials said that recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would be an acknowledgement of “historical and current reality”, rather than an intervention in the politics of the peace process.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he reminded Trump in a phone call on Monday that the status of Jerusalem should be determined through negotiations on a two-state solution for the Middle East.