Canberra Backpedals Slightly on Terminology Change

PM Tony Abbott states that dropping the term 'occupied' for Jerusalem is a terminology change - not a policy change on Israel.

AFP and Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop

Australia's foreign minister will meet ambassadors angered by the country's decision to stop referring to Jerusalem as "occupied", Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Sunday as he stressed there was "no change in policy".

The Arab world threatened Australia with trade sanctions after last week's move, which Attorney-General George Brandis said was made because the term "occupied" carried pejorative implications and was neither appropriate or useful.

The Arab world took offense, however, and on Thursday 18 diplomats from countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia protested to Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra.

But despite the pressure, Canberra refuses to be deterred. 

Abbott, speaking in Houston as part of an official trip to the United States, said Australia was "very happy to clarify the position and on trade." 

"My understanding is that there is going to be a meeting between some of the ambassadors and Foreign Minister (Julie) Bishop in a couple of days' time," the prime minister said, according to AFP

"We are very happy to clarify the position and on trade. People trade with us because we are a good trading partner... Nothing that has happened in the last couple of days could detract from that."

The head of the Palestinian Authority (PA) delegation to Canberra warned Friday that Australia could face trade sanctions by Arab nations over the new stance.

Australia's export trade with the Middle East accounts for billions of dollars annually, particularly in wheat and meat, with Qatar and Jordan major markets for live sheep.

Abbott said there was "absolutely no change" to Australia's policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the shift on Jerusalem was "simply a terminological clarification." 

"We strongly support a two-state solution," he said. "We are giving, I think, Aus$56 million ($53 million) in aid this year to Palestine. No change in policy."