West Jerusalem recognised as Israel's capital by Russia, in surprise statement

In a surprise statement, Russia has said that it recognises west Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The divided city of Jerusalem, central to any solution between Israel and the Palestinians. Russia has become the only country in the world to recognise west Jerusalem as Israel's capital.Reuters

No other country in the world recognises any part of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and nor does the UN.

The Russian announcement comes as US President Donald Trump is considering moving the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to west Jerusalem.

The statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry read: 'We reaffirm our commitment to the UN-approved principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, which include the status of east Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state. At the same time, we must state that in this context we view west Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.'

The Jerusalem Post, which broke the story, said this marks a sharp shift in Russian policy, which until now has formally held that Jerusalem should eventually be under a permanent international regime.

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While officials in Jerusalem interpreted the statement to mean that recognition of west Jerusalem as Israel's capital will only come once east Jerusalem becomes the capital of a Palestinian state, The Jerusalem Post has reported that Moscow 'intends for this recognition to go into effect immediately'.

While Israel considers Jerusalem its 'eternal, undivided capital', the Palestinians regard the east of the city – occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War – to be the capital of any future Palestinian state.

Russia's Ambassador to Israel, Alexander Shein, intends to meet with Foreign Ministry officials in the coming days to discuss the implication of the decision taken in Moscow.

However, reports said that there is currently no intention of moving Russia's embassy to Jerusalem.

Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has yet to respond to the Russian move, but a foreign ministry spokesman, Emmanuel Nahshon, said Israel is 'studying the statement'.

The statement, entitled 'Foreign Ministry statement regarding Palestinian-Israeli settlement,' said that Moscow 'is deeply concerned about the situation in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Palestine and Israel have not held political negotiations for nearly three years, and the situation on the ground has been deteriorating.'

It added: 'The stalling of the Middle East peace process has created conditions for unilateral moves that undermine the potential for an internationally accepted solution to the Palestinian problem, under which two states – Israel and Palestine – could live in peace and security with each other and with their neighbours.'

Moscow reaffirmed 'its support for the two-state solution as an optimal option that meets the national interests of the Palestinian and Israeli people, both of whom have friendly relations with Russia, and the interests of all other countries in the region and the international community as a whole'.

It added: 'The concrete parameters of a solution for the entire range of issues regarding the status of Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, should be coordinated at the direct talks between the parties involved. Using its opportunities as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, a co-sponsor of the peace process and an active member of the Middle East Quartet of international intermediaries, Russia will continue to provide assistance to the achievement of Israeli-Palestinian agreements.'

The statement also said that Moscow will 'focus on ensuring free access to Jerusalem's holy places for all believers.'

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