Netanyahu and Putin meet at the Kremlin
Netanyahu and Putin meet at the Kremlin Haim Zach/Flash90

Russia officially announced that it recognizes western Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in an unexpected announcement Thursday.

“We reaffirm our commitment to the UN-approved principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, which include the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state. At the same time, we must state that in this context we view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said in a statement.

The statement represents a large shift in Russian policy. Russia had previously called for Jerusalem to be ruled by an international regime. However, the statement also gave recognition to the Palestinian Authority's claim to the eastern half of the city, in which many of the holiest sites of Judaism are located, such as the Temple Mount.

Many nations refuse to place their embassies in Jerusalem even though Israel has controlled the western half of the city since the War of Independence in 1948. US President Donald Trump has stated that he is considering moving the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, though he has not made a final decision.

Israeli officials refused to comment on the surprise announcement. “We are studying the matter,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon said.

It is unknown whether Jerusalem will welcome the announcement in light of the continued refusal to recognize Israel's sovereignty over eastern Jerusalem.

Israel will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the liberation and reunification of Jerusalem this June.