Australia formally recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

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Australia formally recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, reversing decades of Middle East policy, but will not move its embassy there immediately, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Saturday.

“Australia now recognizes West Jerusalem, being the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of government, is the capital of Israel,” Morrison said.

“We look forward to moving our embassy to West Jerusalem when practical ... and after final status determination,” he told reporters in Sydney.

In the interim, Morrison said, Australia would establish a defense and trade office in the west of the holy city.

“Furthermore, recognizing our commitment to a two-state solution, the Australian government is also resolved to acknowledge the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a future state with its capital in east Jerusalem,” he added.

Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital.

Most foreign nations have avoided moving embassies there to prevent inflaming peace talks on the city’s final status -- until US President Trump unilaterally moved the US embassy there earlier this year.

Morrison first floated a shift in foreign policy in October, which angered Australia’s immediate neighbor Indonesia -- the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

The issue has put a halt on years-long negotiations on a bilateral trade deal.

Canberra on Friday told its citizens travelling to Indonesia to “exercise a high degree of caution”, warning of protests in the Indonesian capital Jakarta and popular holiday hotspots, including Bali.

Morrison said it was in Australia’s interests to support “liberal democracy” in the Middle East, and took aim at the United Nations he said was a place Israel is “bullied”.