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Trump 'very committed' to Middle East peace process, Tillerson says

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks during a press conference at NATO headquarter in Brussels, on December 6, 2017
THIERRY CHARLIER (AFP)
Tillerson said the US believes 'there is a very good opportunity for peace to be achieved'

President Donald Trump is "very committed" to the Middle East peace process, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday amid global alarm at a US plan to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Tillerson said the US believes "there is a very good opportunity for peace to be achieved" between Israel and the Palestinians, despite international outcry over Trump's decision on Jerusalem.

"The president is very committed to the Middle East peace process," Tillerson told reporters at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.

He said a small team led by Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has been "engaged in a quiet way" in the region to try to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

"We continue to believe there is a very good opportunity for peace to be achieved and the president has a team that is devoted to that entirely," Tillerson said.

Trump's decision to back Israel's claim on Jerusalem -- which he is due to announce at 1800 GMT -- has triggered a chorus of international concern, amid fears that it could sink any hope of new peace talks.

The White House argues that such a move would not prejudge final talks and would represent the reality that west Jerusalem is and will continue to be part of Israel under any settlement.

Both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital and previous peace plans have stumbled over debates on whether and how to divide sovereignty or oversee holy sites.

An inbuilt waiver has been repeatedly invoked by successive US presidents, postponing the move on grounds of "national security" once every six months, meaning the law has never taken effect.

Several peace plans have unraveled over the issue of how to divide sovereignty or oversee sites in the city that are holy for Christians, Jews and Muslims.

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S.A. has already agreed for Abu Dis.

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