Fifth day of protests in Middle East over Trump's Jerusalem move

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Jerusalem (AFP)

The Middle East saw a fifth day of protests on Monday over US President Donald Trump's declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, while further global condemnation followed the deeply controversial move.

While tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Lebanon, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held talks with EU foreign ministers in Brussels, declaring that the move he has lauded as historic "makes peace possible".

He also said he expected "all or most" European countries would follow the United States -- but the 28-nation bloc's foreign policy head Federica Mogherini gave him a stern rebuff, telling him to "keep his expectations for others".

During a visit to Cairo, Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced Trump's decision as "destabilising" while calling for a resumption of long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Hezbollah, which fought a war with Israel in 2006, organised the demonstration in Beirut's southern suburbs that saw tens of thousands chanting "Death to America!" and "Death to Israel!"

Further protests were held in Iran and the Palestinian territories.

In Tehran, a few hundred diehard Iranian conservatives rallied against Israel and said Trump had hastened its demise with his decision.

In Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, dozens of Palestinians threw stones at Israeli soldiers, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets in return in the latest such clash.

"We came here against Trump's decision and we want to send a message that Jerusalem is and will stay our capital, and we will stay to defend it," one protester in a black ski mask told AFP.

There were also low-level clashes in Hebron and the Gaza Strip.

Some 27 Palestinians were wounded by live fire or rubber bullets throughout the day, the Red Crescent said.

Palestinian demonstrations have declined in number and intensity since reaching a peak on Friday, but there are concerns they will again increase later this week.

Four Palestinians have been killed so far in clashes or Israeli air strikes in response to rocket fire from Gaza, and hundreds have been wounded.

Tens of thousands have also demonstrated in a range of Middle Eastern and Muslim nations.

- 'Walking away' -

Palestinian leaders have been outraged by Trump's move, but they also face difficult choices in how to respond since they rely on US aid and would like to salvage remaining hopes of a two-state solution to the conflict.

President Mahmud Abbas will refuse to meet with US Vice President Mike Pence when he visits the region later this month, Palestinian officials say, a move that led Washington to accuse the Palestinian leader of "walking away" from a chance to discuss peace.

Abbas was on Monday holding talks with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt -- a key US ally in the region -- ahead of a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the main pan-Islamic body, on Wednesday.

Netanyahu, who has been dogged by corruption investigations against him at home, has lauded the US president's declaration.

On Monday, he was in Brussels as part of a two-day trip to Europe after having met French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris the previous day, with the visits having been planned before Trump's declaration.

Macron urged Netanyahu to "show courage" and take measures to restart long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, including freezing settlement construction in the West Bank.

Netanyahu, who heads what is seen as the most right-wing government in Israeli history, showed no sign of obliging, instead seeking to place blame on the Palestinians for stalled peace efforts.

He met EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday, the first such talks with an Israeli premier in 22 years and after the bloc's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini warned that Trump's move could take the situation "backwards to even darker times".

Netanyahu later said that he told EU foreign ministers to "stop spoiling the Palestinians -- tell them clearly."

"I think that the Palestinians need to be brought back to earth, to reality," he said.

Mogherini said the "worst thing that can happen now is an escalation of tensions, of violence", and restated the EU's position that a two-state solution with Jerusalem as capital for both Israelis and Palestinians was the only sustainable way to resolve the conflict.

- Global condemnation -

Trump's Jerusalem declaration upended decades of precedent and broke with international consensus, drawing global condemnation.

Jerusalem's status is perhaps the most sensitive issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel sees the entire city as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

Trump noted in his decision that Jerusalem's final status would have to be decided in negotiations between the two sides, but the Palestinians have not been convinced.

Many analysts have questioned how a fair peace process could be possible after such a major concession was made without seeming to demand anything in return.

Jerusalem is home to sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, and the Arab and Muslim world has seen the US move as an affront.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been perhaps the most outspoken in warning about the consequences of the move.

On Monday, he lashed out further, saying the United States was a "partner to bloodshed" after Donald Trump's recognition.

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