UK disapproves of U.S. decision on Jerusalem, has no plans to move embassy

Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-09 07:54:05|Editor: Liu
Video PlayerClose

UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) -- A British envoy said Friday that his country does not agree with the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and has no plans to move the British Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Britain's position on the status of Jerusalem is clear and longstanding: it should be determined through a negotiated settlement between Israelis and Palestinians, and Jerusalem should ultimately be the shared capital of the Israeli and Palestinian states, said Matthew Rycroft, the British ambassador to the United Nations.

"We therefore disagree with the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and unilaterally to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital before a final-status agreement," Rycroft told an emergency meeting of the Security Council on the issue of Jerusalem, which was called by Britain and seven other council members following a decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

"These decisions are unhelpful to the prospects for peace in the region, an aim that I know all of us in this council remain committed to. The British Embassy to Israel is based in Tel Aviv and we have no plans to move it."

In line with relevant Security Council resolutions, Britain regards East Jerusalem as part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, he said.

"We remain committed to an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement that is based on 1967 borders with agreed and equal land swaps, reflecting both parties' national and religious interests; and with Jerusalem as the shared capital of an Israeli (state) and Palestinian state. This outcome must be determined through a final-status agreement, and a just, fair, agreed and realistic settlement for refugees, that is demographically compatible with the principle of two states for two peoples."

Jerusalem holds huge significance and holiness for Jews, Muslims and Christians, he said. "We reiterate the fundamental necessity of maintaining the status quo at the Holy Sites, in particular the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif and we welcome President Trump's call on the parties to maintain that status quo. Access and religious rights of both peoples must be respected."

He expressed deep concern over continued developments on the ground that undermine the prospects for a two-state solution. "As the Quartet (for Middle East peace) has made clear, (Jewish) settlement construction and expansion, particularly in East Jerusalem, is a significant barrier to achieving that solution. Terrorism and incitement to violence constitute another crucial barrier."

He said Britain will continue to press the parties to refrain from actions which make a viable peace more difficult to achieve. "A just and lasting resolution to end the occupation and deliver peace for both Israelis and Palestinians is long overdue. Recent developments demonstrate the urgency of progress toward peace."

He called for the early resumption of peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians with the support of the international community.

Rycroft called on the U.S. administration to bring forward detailed proposals for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, as it claims to be committed to peace. "The UK will also do everything we can to support progress and achieve the vision of a lasting peace."

"We share President Trump's desire to bring an end to this conflict. We welcome his commitment to a two-state solution negotiated between the parties. We note his clear acknowledgement of the importance of the final status of Jerusalem, including the sovereign boundaries within the city, which must be subject to negotiations between the parties."

To have the best chances of success, the peace process must be conducted in an atmosphere free from violence, he said. "We call on all parties to maintain calm, and work together in a spirit of commitment to this common enterprise."

On Jerusalem specifically, peace efforts need to take account of the people, not just the land and the Holy Sites, said Rycroft. "There are more than 320,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem. The vast majority are permanent residents whose permits can be revoked at any point. If they move away from the city, Israel often does not allow them back. If they marry, they face obstacle in bringing their spouses. If they apply for Israeli citizenship, and most do not, a high proportion of applications are rejected. Their status must not be forgotten in any peace effort."

If all parties can truly take bold steps in the spirit of compromise, an agreement can be reached. This is the only way to ensure the long-term security that Israelis deserve, and the statehood and end to the occupation that Palestinians are calling out for, he said. "This is what both peoples ought to have. It has been denied to them for too long."