Erekat criticizes Australia over Jerusalem recognition

Head of PLO Executive Committee says Australia isn't committed to two-state solution and refuses to recognize "Palestine".

Elad Benari ,

Saeb Erekat
Saeb Erekat
Flash 90

Saeb Erekat, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Executive Committee, on Saturday criticized Australia over its recognition of western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“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. Australia's announcement to open a trade office in the city negates its very claim that it abides by UN Security Council Resolution 478, which refers to Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem as null and void and calls upon countries to withdraw diplomatic missions from the city,” said Erekat in a statement.

“In his announcement, Australian PM Morrison mentioned that the decision was made in light of alleged Australian support for the two-state solution. However, the policies of this Australian administration have done nothing to advance the two-state solution,” he charged.

“In fact, Australia has chosen to join Trump, Netanyahu, and two other governments, in voting against the two-state solution, in a UN resolution supported by 156 nations. Additionally, the Australian government is refusing to recognize Palestine as a state, voting in international forums against the Palestinian right to self-determination, and continuing to trade with Israeli settlements,” continued Erekat.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Saturday that his country officially recognizes western Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, though he stressed that the Australian embassy would not move to West Jerusalem until a peace agreement was reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Morrison did say, however, that his government would establish an office in Jerusalem that would deal with security and trade.

Earlier on Saturday, a spokesman for the PA cabinet said that the Australian government's decision to recognize western Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was a "wrong step" and showed an incorrect understanding of the political reality and decisions of the international institutions on Jerusalem since 1947.

Australia’s move was actually welcomed by Bahrain, whose Foreign Minister, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, said that "Australia’s position does not hamper the legitimate demands of the Palestinians and first and foremost East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.”

The senior diplomat added, "It also does not contradict the Arab Peace Initiative.”

Morrison’s announcement about recognizing Jerusalem followed several conflicting reports about whether he would actually go ahead with the move.

On Tuesday, The Australian reported that the Australian government would formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital city of the State of Israel, but is not planning on relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv in the near future.

Morrison later rejected that report, saying it was too early to discuss such matters and that "when I’m in a position to make that announcement, I will.”

By Thursday night, officials in Canberra said Morrison would make the announcement on Saturday. Ahead of the expected announcement, Australia warned citizens to take care while travelling in neighboring Muslim-majority Indonesia.