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Trump to recognise Jerusalem as Israel capital

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WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump plans to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday and set in motion the relocation of the US Embassy to the ancient city, senior US officials said, a decision that upends decades of US policy and risks fuelling violence in the Middle East.

Senior administration officials called Trump’s expected recognition of Jerusalem an affirmation of ‘reality’ — both historical and current, pointing out that the city is already home to Israel’s parliament, supreme court and other government sites.

Palestinians, however, also claim Jerusalem as their capital, and Trump’s anticipated announcement has touched off an uproar in the Arab world.

Trump, in a landmark speech, will announce he has ordered the State Department to begin developing a plan to move the embassy from Tel Aviv in what is expected to be a process that takes three to four years, the officials said.

Trump will sign a national security waiver that authorises him to delay the embassy relocation for now, since the US diplomats do not yet have a building in Jerusalem to move into, security arrangements or housing for diplomats, the officials said.

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Trump’s endorsement of Israel’s claim to all of Jerusalem as its capital would reverse long-standing US policy that the city’s status must be decided in negotiations with the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

The international community does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions.

The officials, who briefed reporters ahead of Trump’s speech at 1 pm EST (1800 GMT) on Wednesday, insisted that Trump’s decision, intended to fulfill a key campaign promise, was not meant to pre-judge the outcome of eventual talks on the final status of Jerusalem or other major disputes between the two sides.

Instead, one of the officials contended that Trump’s announcements reflected the “historic reality” of Jerusalem as the center of Jewish faith and the “modern reality” that it is the seat of Israeli government.

Such arguments are not likely to sway the Palestinians and the broader Arab world.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan’s King Abdullah, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, who all received telephone calls from Trump on Tuesday, joined a mounting chorus of voices warning that unilateral US steps on Jerusalem would derail a fledgling US-led peace effort that has stymied previous US administrations and unleash turmoil in the region.

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The White House said Trump had also spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close US ally and longtime proponent of a US embassy move to Jerusalem.

Netanyahu was the only leader whose office did not release a statement following the call. A senior Israeli minister welcomed Trump’s decision while vowing that Israel would be prepared for any outbreak of violence.

Reuters/GNN

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US ready to talk to North Korea without preconditions

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WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said Washington is ready to begin talks on North Korea’s nuclear disarmament, without pre-conditions.

“We’re ready to have the first meeting without preconditions,” Tillerson told a meeting on the crisis at the Atlantic Council policy forum in Washington.

Tillerson’s new diplomatic overture comes nearly two weeks after North Korea said it had successfully tested a breakthrough intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that put the entire United States mainland within range of its nuclear weapons.

“Let’s just meet and let’s talk about the weather if you want and talk about whether it’s going to be a square table or a round table if that’s what you’re excited about,” Tillerson said.

This appeared to represent a softening in the US position, seeing as officials had previously demanded that Kim Jong-Un’s regime demonstrate a willingness to consider giving up its arsenal.

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But, the White House later issued an ambiguous statement that left unclear whether President Donald Trump — who has said Tillerson was wasting his time pursuing dialogue with North Korea — had given his approval for the speech.

“The president’s views on North Korea have not changed,” the White House said adding, “North Korea is acting in an unsafe way … North Korea’s actions are not good for anyone and certainly not good for North Korea.”

Meanwhile, Kim Jong-Un has vowed to make North Korea the “world’s strongest nuclear power,” tate media reported Wednesday.

Mr Kim told workers behind the recent test of a new missile that his country “will victoriously advance and leap as the strongest nuclear power and military power in the world,” in a ceremony on Tuesday, according to state news agency KCNA.

GNN/Reuters

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