Australia govt slow pedals on Jerusalem

The new Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison attends a news conference in Canberra Australia Au

The new Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison attends a news conference in Canberra Australia Au

According to Morrison, it was former ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma, now the Liberal Party candidate for a seat once held by former Prime Minister Malcolm, who convinced Morrison he should consider the idea of moving the Australian embassy to Jerusalem.

Morrison's comments about recognising Jerusalem and possibly moving Australia's embassy there, just like U.S. President Donald Trump's controversial decision in December, would reverse decades of foreign policy and inflame tension with some of Australia's Asian neighbours. This was announced by the office of the Prime Minister of Israel at the end of telephone calls Benjamin Netanyahu with his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.

"Minister Payne emphasised that there had been no change to Australia's commitment to the Middle East peace process and to a durable and resilient two-state solution that allowed Israel and a future Palestinian state to exist side by side, within internationally recognised borders", he said.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Morrison said: "When sensible suggestions are put forward that is consistent with your policy positioning and in this case pursuing a two-state solution, Australia should be open-minded to this and I am open-minded to this and our government is open-minded to this".

Voters in a key Sydney electorate are to go to the polls on Saturday, with Morrison's Liberal party candidate, a former ambassador to Israel, trailing in the final stretch.

Australia was committed to a two-state solution, it said, and an embassy move would not block Palestinian claims over the eastern part of the city.

The potential move by Australia to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital would make the country only the third to do so, following the United States and Guatemala in May.

As Washington backed the government policy re-think, Mr Morrison said his decision is "not an issue of concern with them".

The official added "We appreciate Australia's decision to vote no on the UN resolution", in reference to Australia's decision to oppose a resolution for the Palestinian Authority to chair a group of developing nations known as the G77.

For decades, a proposed two-state solution has underpinned the worldwide community's efforts to address and achieve peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ― but Morrison appears unconvinced that it's ever going to work.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest obstacles to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

"We will continue to work closely and cooperatively with our allies and our partners all around the world on these issues", Morrison said. "Specifically, the government will examine the merits of moving Australia's embassy to West Jerusalem". "I hope Australia would reconsider that position before taking action".

The new United States embassy in Jerusalem was opened in May despite widespread protests by Palestinians about the decision.

"Foreign policy, and Australia's national interest are far too important to be played with in this fashion", she said.

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