Palestinian leaders warn Trump over US embassy pledge

A major conference on peace in the Middle East is underway in Paris - with no Israeli or Palestinian representation

Palestinian leaders warn Trump over US embassy pledge

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the inauguration ceremony of the Palestinian embassy to the Holy See at the Vatican, 14-Jan-2017. Image: AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

Palestinian leaders are warning that Donald Trump's pledge to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem could spell the end of the two-state solution to the conflict.

Some 70 countries - including key European and Arab states as well as the permanent members of the UN Security Council - have been meeting in Paris today in an attempt to restart peace talks on the Middle East.

Neither Palestine nor Israel is represented at the talks - described by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “futile.”

He described the conference as “among the last twitches of the world of yesterday” and told his cabinet meeting this morning: "Tomorrow will look different and that tomorrow is very close."

Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, has written to Mr Trump urging him not to follow through on his pledge - telling the US President-elect that a move to Jerusalem would kill off the peace process and strip the US of its role as honest broker.

"We hope that this news is not true, because it is not encouraging and will disrupt and hinder the peace process," Mr Abbas said on Saturday, speaking after he inaugurated the Palestinian embassy to the Vatican.

He warned the move could lead to Palestine going back on its recognition of Israel.

The Six-Day War

Up until the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Jerusalem was divided, but after six days of fighting Israel conquered the eastern half of the city from Jordan.

Israel considers the whole of the city as its "eternal, undivided capital" - but East Jerusalem is considered occupied under international law.

Palestinians view the Eastern part of the city as their own capital.

Should the Trump administration follow through on its promise to move the embassy, it could be seen as a de facto recognition of Israel’s claim.

France's Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has called the move a “provocation” and warned it will have serious consequences on the ground.

"One cannot have such a clear-cut, unilateral position. You have to create the conditions for peace," he told France 3 television.

Paris summit

"We are all aware of the need to mobilise to re-start the peace process," Minister Ayrault told delegates in Paris today.

"I'm fully aware of the reservations surrounding this conference and doubts about whether it should be held at this time - but there is no time to be lost."

"The two-state solution has been forcefully re-submitted, now is definitely not the time to stop. The parties are very, very far apart, and the goal is to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table."

The Paris conference will urge Israel and Palestine "to officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution" - however the meeting will not impose anything on either country.

French authorities have insisted only direct negotiations can resolve the conflict.