Mahathir says Australia has ‘no right’ to divide Jerusalem, Latest World News - The New Paper

Mahathir says Australia has ‘no right’ to divide Jerusalem

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Mahathir slams Canberra's move to recognise West Jerusalem as Israeli capital

BANGKOK Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad yesterday criticised Australia's move to recognise West Jerusalem as Israel's capital, saying countries had "no rights" to do so.

Australia's move follows US President Donald Trump's decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in May, which infuriated Palestinians and the wider Islamic world and upset Western allies.

"Jerusalem should remain as it is now and not the capital of Israel," Dr Mahathir said on the sidelines of an event in Bangkok.

"Jerusalem has always been under Palestine, so why are they taking the initiative to divide Jerusalem not belonging to them, but to divide the Arabs and the Jews? They have no rights."

Malaysia has long supported a two-state solution in the Palestine-Israel conflict.

The status of Jerusalem, home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths, is one of the biggest obstacles to a peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians who want East Jerusalem recognised as the capital of a Palestinian state.

Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital, including the eastern sector that it annexed in a move not recognised internationally, after the 1967 Middle East war.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison reversed decades of Middle East policy by the country but said there are no immediate plans to move the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv.


Australia's neighbour Indonesia was angered by the embassy move proposal, and said on Saturday it "notes" the decision.

Citing Jakarta's response, Mr Morrison said yesterday that the international reaction had been "measured" and his decision would progress a two-state solution.

"I think the responses that we have seen from countries so far has been measured," he said.

"Australia would continue to respect a two-state outcome that remained our goal as strongly as ever."

Israel's embassy in Canberra yesterday said the decision was a "step in the right direction".

"Israel views the decision of the Australian government to open its Trade and Defence office in Jerusalem as a step in the right direction," the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said the announcement was born of "petty domestic politics" in Australia.

Mr Erekat said: "The policies of this Australian administration have done nothing to advance the two-state solution.

"All of Jerusalem remains a final status issue for negotiations, while East Jerusalem, under international law, is an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territory."

The Arab League's assistant secretary-general for Palestine and the Occupied Arab Territories, Mr Saeed Abu Ali, condemned Australia's decision as a break with the international community's positions that disregards international law.

In a statement, he said it was "blatantly biased towards the positions and policies of the Israeli occupation". - REUTERS