After talks with Arab officials, US position ‘has not changed’ on Jerusalem: Official

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The United States continues to back an undivided Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the State Department told Al Arabiya English on Thursday, as Arab allies maintain their stance of East Jerusalem being the capital of a future Palestinian state.

“The United States’ position has not changed,” said a State Department spokesperson when asked if the Trump administration would amend their Mideast peace plan to propose East Jerusalem as the future Palestinian capital.

The Trump plan, which supports a two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calls for an “united” Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and assigns a future Palestinian capital to be in a suburb area to the east of the city of Jerusalem.

The Palestinians, according to the plan, would not control any part of the Old City of Jerusalem that includes the Islamic holy site Al Aqsa and the holiest place in Christianity the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – both demanded by the Palestinians.

Previous US administrations have held the position that the city of Jerusalem should never be divided, according to former US Ambassador Dennis Ross.

“Prior to the Trump Administration, the US position was that the city of Jerusalem should never be divided again, but that the political status of the city must be resolved through the negotiations between the parties,” said Ross, a former special assistant to US President Barack Obama, in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

Trump’s predecessor President Barack Obama said during a 2008 AIPAC speech that “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.”

Palestinian, Arab, and other world leaders have long contended that any peace agreement must return territory Israel annexed in the 1967 war, as stated by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 242.

This annexed territory includes the part of the city known as East Jerusalem - where 360,000 Palestinians currently live under Israeli occupation, confronted by a wall separating them from Palestinians in the West Bank, which the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concludes is against international law.

Arab leaders emphasize East Jerusalem as Palestinian capital

After the United Arab Emirates’ historic agreement to normalize ties with Israel, Pompeo embarked on a Middle East tour on Monday beginning in Israel, with stops in Sudan, Bahrain, the UAE, and Oman.

Pompeo said Monday that he was hopeful other Arab nations will follow the UAE.

However Gulf countries such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have reiterated their support for the Arab Peace Initiative, which states that relations with Israel can only be reached upon actualization of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as the capital.

In a meeting with Pompeo on Wednesday, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa emphasized an Israeli-Palestinian peace process that “leads to the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” according to the country’s state news agency.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud has said the Kingdom is committed to the Arab Peace Initiative and former Saudi Arabian intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal said his country has “set a price for concluding peace between Israel and the Arabs.”

“It is the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as capital, as provided for by the initiative of the late King Abdullah,” Prince Turki wrote in the newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, and translated on Al Arabiya English’s dedicated In Translation page, on Friday.

The Arab Peace Initiative was first presented by then-Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud in 2002 and is support by the Arab League, whose members include Sudan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Oman.

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