Several world leaders have decried President Donald Trump's decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel out of concern that it could exacerbate one of the world's most controversial conflicts.
Trump stated on Wednesday that the move recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital was "a long overdue step" to advance the Middle East peace process.
The president said in a statement that he had "judged this course of action to be in the best interests of the United States of America, and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians."
However, several international leaders, including U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, expressed fears that the announcement could provoke new tensions in the city revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Just minutes after Trump's announcement, Guterres issued a statement outside the Security Council chambers at the U.N. headquarters in New York, criticizing the move and highlighting the administration's departure from decades of American policy.
"Jerusalem is a final-status issue that must be resolved through direct negotiations between the two parties on the basis of the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, taking into account the legitimate concerns of both the Palestinian and the Israeli sides," Guterres said, as reported by The New York Times.
"In this moment of great anxiety, I want to make it clear: there is no alternative to the two-state solution. There is no Plan B," he added.
Trump had also announced that he has directed the U.S. embassy to begin preparations to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The European Union's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, had expressed concerns about the repercussions that Trump's decision may have in the peace process. She reiterated the EU's stance that Jerusalem should be a capital of both Israel and Palestine in the future, and insisted that embassies should not be moved there until the city's final status was resolved.
The international community has never recognized Israel's sovereignty over Jerusalem, and all countries have set up their embassies in Tel Aviv.
After the Six Day War in 1967, Israel annexed East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, but it has never been internationally recognized as part of the Jewish nation.
The decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital fulfills a campaign promise and appeals to Trump's supporters such as The Jerusalem Jewish Coalition, which has already thanked the U.S. president in a New York Times advertisement.
In Rome, Pope Francis made an appeal to "ensure that everyone is committed to respecting the status quo" of Jerusalem, in accordance with the relevant U.N. resolutions.
He noted that Jerusalem has a "special vocation to peace" as it is considered sacred by Jews, Christians and Muslims.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said that Trump's announcement was "unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region," while French President Emmanuel Macron said that France did not support the move.
Other critics have asserted that the change in policy removed any pretense that the U.S. Is a neutral broker for peace.
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah contended that the change in American policy "destroys the peace process."
In a pre-recorded TV speech, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas insisted that Jerusalem was the "eternal capital of the state of Palestine."
Trump's announcement has been hailed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said: "The president's decision is an important step towards peace, for there is no peace that doesn't include Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel."
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