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German president questions logic behind US decision on Jerusalem

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is expected to use his diplomatic skills as former foreign minister to persuade parties to return to the negotiating table after the collapse of coalition talks
John MACDOUGALL (AFP)
Trump has defended his dramatic policy shift on Jerusalem as simply a reflection of the 'facts on the ground'

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Sunday spoke out against US President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to unilaterally back Israel’s claim over the disputed city of Jerusalem, questioning Washington’s position that the unilateral move would contribute to furthering Middle East peace.  

In an interview with Jordan’s Al-Ghad daily published Sunday, Steinmeier said there are “very good reasons to question the theory that unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would contribute to the consolidation of peace in the Middle East.”

Steinmeier, who is on a four-day visit to Jordan and Lebanon, said that central to Germany’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “the need to preserve the status of holy sites and to negotiate the final status of Jerusalem within the framework of the two-state solution.”

Speaking ahead of a meeting with Steinmeier on Sunday, Jordan’s King Abdullah II -- who served as the official custodian of Jerusalem’s Muslim holy sites -- reiterated his backing of a two-state solution to the conflict and the Palestinians’ claim over Jerusalem’s Arab-majority eastern sector.

Ahmad GHARABLI (AFP)

“I think our views on Palestine and Jerusalem are well known to you,” King Abdullah told the German president. “We do believe in a two-state solution, with (East) Jerusalem as a capital for the Palestinians.”

While backing the Palestinians on the issue of Jerusalem, Jordan -- a major recipient of US aid -- has refrained from supporting the Palestinians’ dismissal of Washington as an appropriate mediator in the wake of the declaration.

While Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refused to meet with US Vice President Mike Pence during his Mid East tour last week, Abdullah welcomed him to Amman.

Abdullah said he was "encouraged" by Trump's stated commitment to finding a solution to the decades-long conflict, which he said was a "potential major source of instability".

Jordan, as one of only two Arab states that have peace treaties with Israel, would be a key player if US mediators ever manage to get a revived Israeli-Palestinian peace process off the ground, as Trump says he wants.

Khalil MAZRAAWI (AFP)

Trump has defended his dramatic policy shift on Jerusalem as simply a reflection of the “facts on the ground.”

Speaking alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last week, Trump said that the decision has taken Jerusalem "off the table" as a negotiating issue.

"We took Jerusalem off the table, so we don’t have to talk about it anymore," he said.

This is likely to be interpreted by Palestinians as an outright rejection of their claim on the eastern part of the city as the capital of their hoped-for state.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the most contentious issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its united capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

The US move broke with decades of international consensus that the city's status should be settled as part of a two-state peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

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