Envoys shun opening US embassy festivities

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U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Senior White House Advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. reuters

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel launched celebrations on Sunday for the US Embassy’s relocation to Jerusalem, a move whose break with world consensus was underscored by the absence of most envoys to the country from a reception hosted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Yesterday’s slated opening of the new embassy follows from US President Donald Trump’s recognition in December of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a decision he said fulfilled decades of policy pledges in Washington and formalised realities on the ground.

The Palestinians, who want their own future state with its capital in east Jerusalem, have been outraged by Trump’s shift from previous administrations’ preference for keeping the US Embassy in Tel Aviv pending progress in peace efforts.

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Those talks have been frozen since 2014. Other major powers worry the US move could now inflame Palestinian unrest in the occupied West Bank and on the Gaza Strip border, where Israel reinforced troops in anticipation of the embassy opening.

Most countries say the status of Jerusalem should be determined in a final peace settlement, and say moving their embassies now would prejudge any such deal.

Addressing dignitaries at the Foreign Ministry, including US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the president’s daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the Israeli prime minister urged others to follow Washington’s lead.

’Move your embassies to Jerusalem because it’’s the right thing to do,” Netanyahu said. “Move your embassies to Jerusalem because it advances peace, and that’s because you can’t base peace on a foundation of lies.”

Netanyahu said that “under any peace agreement you could possibly imagine, Jerusalem will remain Israel’s capital”.

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Jerusalem, which is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, was decorated with roadside flowerbeds in the design of the US flag and posters reading “Trump makes Israel great again”.

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