Palestinians say Trump told Abbas of 'intention to move' embassy to Jerusalem


Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)

US President Donald Trump told Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas in a phone call Tuesday that he intends to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Abbas's office said.

Trump "informed the president (Abbas) on his intention to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem," a statement from the Palestinian presidency said.

The statement provided no further details on whether Trump plans to move the embassy immediately or at some point in the future.

There have been reports that he will decline to move the embassy for now, but will recognise the disputed city as Israel's capital.

Moving the embassy and recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital would mark a major shift in US policy and upturn decades of precedent in contrast with international consensus.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Monday that Trump "has been clear on this issue from the get-go: it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when."

He said a declaration on the move would be made "in the coming days."

In Tuesday's call, Abbas in turn "warned of the dangerous consequences of such a decision on the peace process, security and stability in the region and the world," his office said.

"The president reaffirms our firm position that there can be no Palestinian state without east Jerusalem as its capital in accordance with the resolutions of international law and the Arab peace initiative," it said, referring to a 2002 Saudi-backed plan.

Abbas "will continue his communications with world leaders to prevent such an unacceptable and rejected step."

A Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, gave AFP further details on what he said was discussed during the call.

"Trump told president Abbas there was a decision taken in Congress a long time ago, and there has been pressure from Congress to implement the decision and move the embassy," the official said.

"Trump said he made electoral promises to the American people to move the embassy and wants to keep them."

The official added that Trump told Abbas he had "important ideas" he will introduce after the decision, but the Palestinian leader informed him he rejected moving the embassy, which would "totally change the equation."

Trump has been seeking ways to restart long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

Palestinian leaders say recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital will ruin any effort to do so.

There was no comment from Israeli leaders. Israeli media reported that ministers were instructed not to speak on the issue at the White House's request.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to address a conference in Jerusalem at 11 am (0900 GMT) on Wednesday.