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Russian deputy FM to i24NEWS: 'irrational' not to recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

A general view of the city of Jerusalem shows the Dome of the Rock mosque on December 4, 2017
THOMAS COEX (AFP/File)

It would have been “irrational” for Russia not to have recognised West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who is also the Middle East envoy of Russian President Vladimir Putin, told i24NEWS.

In an in-depth interview with i24NEWS at the Dialogue of Civilizations Rhodes Forum, Bogdanov argued that it would be “logical” for other countries that recognise a Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem to recognise Israeli sovereignty in West Jerusalem.

But he explained that Russia would not move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem until it could also move its mission in Ramallah to the eastern part of the contested city.

Russia surprised the international community in April 2017 by recognising West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, becoming the first country in the world to recognise Israeli sovereignty over any part of the disputed city. In a laconic statement at the time, the Russian Foreign Ministry did not explain the reasoning for the unusual announcement.

“Sometimes we notice that there are certain elements of irrationality in our approach,” Bogdanov told i24NEWS, speaking through an interpreter. Russia, he noted, had already recognised an independent Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem, in November 1988. “And we asked ourselves a question—what about West Jerusalem? If we say East Jerusalem is the capital of a Palestinian state, then logically, West Jerusalem would be the capital of Israel.”

Bogdanov noted that the Israeli leadership is based in Jerusalem. “Therefore it was logical to come to the conclusion that East Jerusalem, God willing, would be the capital of Palestine, and West Jerusalem would be the capital of Israel. Logically,” he argued.

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Under the original UN Partition Plan for Palestine in 1947, Jerusalem was supposed to be an international enclave. In 1948 during Israel’s war of independence, Israel and Jordan conquered the western and eastern sectors of the city respectively.

In 1967, Israel captured the eastern sector from Jordan in the Six-Day War and declared the whole of Jerusalem to be its undivided capital city.

The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and foreign states have refrained from recognising Israeli control over the western sector.

Bogdanov stressed that Russia believes the future of Jerusalem “should be determined in Palestinian-Israeli negotiations” because there are many ways to envisage cooperation between an Israeli-controlled West Jerusalem and a Palestinian-controlled East. But he stressed that “in terms of sovereignty”, Russia regards the lines of 4 June 1967—and not the “corpus separatum” of the original UN decision from 1947—as the relevant legal basis.

AFP/Ahmad Gharabli

Asked whether Russia would use its leadership to encourage other countries to recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Bogdanov said, “Everybody decides for themselves.” But he said that if European countries accede to the Palestinians’ request to recognise a Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem, “they would automatically and logically recognise the capital of Israel in West Jerusalem”.

US President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017, while saying that “the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem… are up to the parties involved”. In May, the United States inaugurated a new embassy building in Jerusalem. Guatemala and Paraguay also moved their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but Paraguay then reversed its decision and moved it back to Tel Aviv.

Bogdanov said Russia would not move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem until it can also move its Ramallah mission to a Palestinian-controlled East Jerusalem. “We have recognised East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state. Can we transfer our representative office in Ramallah... to East Jerusalem? We support a balanced policy. If we transfer our embassy to West Jerusalem, which we recognise as the Israeli capital, what should we do with East Jerusalem, which we have recognised as the Palestinian capital?”

Bogdanov said he hopes to return to Israel “quite soon”.

The full interview with Mikhail Bogdanov will be broadcast Thursday October 11, 2018, on i24NEWS' "The Rundown".

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