Pence Middle East trip to go ahead

Washington (AFP) –


US Vice President Mike Pence will visit Egypt and Israel next week, despite controversy and meeting cancelations as a result of the administration's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Aides said Pence is to travel to Cairo and Jerusalem from Tuesday, amid demonstrations and diplomatic tensions over the dramatic shift in US policy.

President Donald Trump's administration invited almost universal condemnation earlier this month when it officially recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, effectively ignoring Palestinian claims on the city.

The city's status had been seen as a central element of any eventual peace deal.

Palestinian, Coptic and other leaders have said Pence is not welcome and have publicly rebuffed requests for a meeting.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas cancelled a planned sit-down with Pence in Ramallah and warned that the United States no longer had a role to play in the peace process.

Any plans that Pence -- who is known to be deeply religious -- may have had to make the pilgrimage to Bethlehem also appear to have been thwarted.

The US vice president will however address the Knesset and meet the Israeli and Egyptian leaders Benjamin Netanyahu and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during the five day trip.