WORLD

Pope Francis defends Jerusalem ‘status quo’

By Joel Lee
  • Published : Dec 6, 2017 - 21:20
  • Updated : Dec 6, 2017 - 21:20
Pope Francis Wednesday defended the “status quo” of Jerusalem, hours ahead of an announcement by US President Donald Trump in which officials said he will recognise the disputed city as Israel‘s capital.

“I cannot silence my deep concern over the situation that has emerged in recent days. At the same time, I appeal strongly for all to respect the city’s status quo, in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions,” the pope said in his weekly address.

The Argentine pontiff‘s call came a day after he spoke by phone with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, the Vatican said without elaborating.

“Jerusalem is a unique city, sacred for Jews, Christians and Muslims,” he said, adding that it was home to sites deemed holy by followers of the three major monotheistic faiths. 

Pope Francis (AFP)

Jerusalem, the pope said, holds a “special vocation for peace”.

“I pray to God that this identity is preserved and reinforced, for the sake of the Holy Land, the Middle East and the whole world, and that wisdom and prudence prevail,” he said. 

The pontiff added that maintaining the status quo was important “in order to avoid adding new elements of tension to an already volatile world that is wracked by so many cruel conflicts”.

Meanwhile, the UN envoy for the Middle East peace process said Wednesday that Jerusalem‘s future status must be negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians and warned of the repercussions of any action over the disputed city.

“The (UN) secretary general has spoken many times on this issue... and he has said that we all have to be very careful with the actions we take because of the repercussions of these actions,” Nickolay Mladenov told a conference ahead of US President Donald Trump’s plan to recognise Jerusalem as Israel‘s capital.

“The future of Jerusalem is something that needs to be negotiated with Israel, with the Palestinians, sitting side by side directly in negotiations.”

A senior administration official said Trump would make the announcement -- ignoring frantic warnings from US allies in the region and around the world -- at 1800 GMT from the White House.

Moving the embassy and recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would mark a major shift in US policy that would upturn decades of precedent and run contrary to international consensus.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank in the Six-Day War of 1967. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.

Israel claims the entire city as its indivisible capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

The city‘s status is among the most difficult issues in the conflict. Traditional US policy has been that it must be negotiated between the two parties. (AFP)