RIYADH: Saudi Arabia criticised US President Donald Trump’s move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, labelling it an ‘irresponsible decision’ on Thursday.
Trump ended seven decades of US ambiguity on the status of the disputed city on Wednesday, prompting an almost universal diplomatic backlash and fears of new bloodshed in the Middle East.
He also kicked off the process of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“The kingdom expresses great regret over the US president’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” said a Saudi royal court statement carried out by a Saudi Press Agency official.
The decision goes against the “historical and permanent rights of the Palestinian people”, the royal court said, calling on Trump to reconsider his decision.
“The kingdom has already warned of the serious consequences of such an unjustified and irresponsible move,” the statement said.
“The US move represents a significant decline in efforts to push a peace process and is a violation of the historically neutral American position on Jerusalem.”
Saudi King Salman on Tuesday had warned Trump that moving the US embassy for Israel to Jerusalem was a “dangerous step” that could rile Muslims worldwide.
Trump’s announcement appears to have cast a pall over relations between Saudi Arabia and the US, which have warmed in the months after his election, with the president choosing the Gulf kingdom for his first overseas visit in May.
While the two countries have long been allies, Riyadh viewed Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama as overly friendly with its arch-nemesis Iran.
Israel and Saudi Arabia have no official diplomatic relations.
Donald Trump’s decision on Wednesday drew sharp criticism from global leaders, with the significant exception of Israel.
Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas responded by saying that the US could no longer play the role of peace broker after Trump’s decision.
“These deplorable and unacceptable measures deliberately undermine all peace efforts,” Abbas had said in a speech following Trump’s announcement.
Pakistan also joined the international community in expressing its strong opposition. “It is deeply regrettable that pleas from states across the globe not to alter the legal and historical status of Al Quds Al Sharif have been ignored, more out of choice than necessity,” read a statement issued by the prime minister office on Wednesday.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) denounced the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reported the media, citing a foreign ministry statement.
“The ministry expressed deep concern over the repercussions of this decision on the region’s stability as it inflames the emotions of the Arab and Muslim people due to the status of Jerusalem in the conscience of Arabs and Muslims,” said the statement.
Jordan condemned Trump’s move as amounting to a violation of international law and the UN charter while Turkey slammed Trump’s Jerusalem announcement as irresponsible and illegal.
Iraq’s government also decried the Trump administration’s move as “unjust”, with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi warning of “dangerous consequences” for regional stability and the world.
He said the US should “retreat from that decision in order to stop a dangerous escalation that leads to extremism and creates an atmosphere which helps terrorism.”
Eight countries — including Britain, France and Italy — pressed for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council in response to the move, which was set for Friday.
Prime Minister Theresa May said the British government disagreed with Trump’s decision, saying it was “unhelpful” for peace efforts.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, hailed Trump’s recognition as “historic” and a “courageous and just decision”.
Netanyahu had also pledged no change to the status quo at Jerusalem’s highly sensitive holy sites in the city, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims.