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  1. ITV Report

UK 'concerned' over reports Donald Trump is 'set to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital'

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has voiced "concern" over Donald Trump's expected announcement that he will recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

On Wednesday, the President will instruct the State Department to begin the process of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv, senior administration officials have told Reuters.

The move will acknowledge the "historical and current reality" rather than being a political statement, the officials added, noting most of Israel's government agencies are already in the city.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson voiced "concern" over the reports and made it clear that the UK has no intention of following Mr Trump's lead by moving its own embassy from Tel Aviv.

"We view the reports that we have heard with concern, because we think that Jerusalem obviously should be part of the final settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, a negotiated settlement that we want to see," said Mr Johnson.

Moving the embassy, one of Mr Trump's campaign pledges, will not happen immediately, according to the report.

Earlier, the President warned his Palestinian counterpart that he intended to move the embassy into the holy city, whose Israeli-annexed eastern sector the Palestinians seek as a future capital.

The reports have provoked a furious backlash across Arab and Muslim states, which have warned any such move could harm fragile Middle East peace efforts.

Officials said on Tuesday that they did not expect the president to use the phrase "undivided capital", which would imply Israeli sovereignty over east Jerusalem, which is not recognised by the United Nations.

The contested city is revered as a holy place by Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. Credit: AP

Pope Francis also said he was "profoundly concerned" and appealed for the status quo of Jerusalem to be respected and for "wisdom and prudence" to prevail to avoid further conflict.

He said: "I pray to the Lord that its identity is preserved and strengthened for the benefit of the Holy Land, the Middle East and the whole world - and that wisdom and prudence prevail to prevent new elements of tension from being added to a global context already convulsed by so many cruel conflicts."

Pope Francis prays in front of the Western Wall in Jerusalek's Old City in 2014. Credit: AP

Jerusalem is home to the third-holiest shrine of Islam, along with the holiest site in Judaism and major Christian holy sites. It forms the combustible centre of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' office said he had warned Mr Trump that moves to cement Israel's hold on Jerusalem could have dangerous repercussions for Middle East peace efforts, as well as security and stability in the region and the world.

Meanwhile, opposition to any US policy change towards Jerusalem is building in the Arab and Muslim world.

Any perceived harm to Muslim claims to the city has triggered large-scale protests in the past, both in the Holy Land and across the region.

Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, the head of the Arab League, urged the United States to reconsider any recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Such a step would be a "dangerous measure that would have repercussions" across the region, he said during a Cairo meeting of Arab League representatives.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned Trump could trigger tension across the Middle East. Credit: AP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told parliament that US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital was a "red line" and that his country's response "could go as far as us cutting diplomatic ties with Israel".

On Monday, the Organisation for Islamic Co-operation, which has 57 member states, said US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital would constitute "naked aggression" against the Muslim and Arab world.

Key Washington ally and regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia also spoke out strongly against such a possible step, saying it had "grave and deep concern" about possible recognition.

In Europe, French President Emmanuel Macron said he reminded Mr Trump in a phone call on Monday night that the fate of Jerusalem should be determined in negotiations on setting up a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Israel has annexed the eastern sector of Jerusalem. Credit: AP

Majdi Khaldi, an Abbas diplomatic adviser, said recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital could end Washington's role as mediator between Israelis and Palestinians.

"If the Americans recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, then this would mean they decided, on their own, to distance themselves from efforts to make peace and that they will have no credibility or role in this issue," Mr Khaldi said.

Should recognition occur "we will stop our contacts with them because such a step goes against our existence and against the fate of our cause", Mr Khaldi said.

"It targets Muslims and Christians alike."

Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned they could cut diplomatic ties to the US. Credit: AP

Israeli education minister Naftali Bennett played down the threat, saying that "at the end of the day it is better to have a united Jerusalem than Erdogan's sympathy".

East Jerusalem, now home to more than 300,000 Palestinians, was captured by Israel in 1967 and then annexed to its capital, a move most of the international community has not recognised.

Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as a future capital.

Israel's current government, unlike its predecessors, rejects the idea of partition of the city.

Under international consensus and long-standing US policy, the fate of the city is to be determined in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Trump officials said the timeline of the planned embassy move was not yet clear. Credit: PA

US officials said it was not clear exactly when Mr Trump planned to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

They said Mr Trump planned to sign a waiver delaying for another six months a US legal requirement to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

But they said Mr Trump would probably give wide latitude to David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, to make a determination on when such a move would be appropriate.

Mr Friedman has spoken in favour of the move.