Leaders in South-east Asia condemn move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital

Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi wears a scarf adorned with the Palestinian and Indonesian flags, on the sidelines of the 10th Bali Democracy Forum on Dec 7, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - Leaders of countries in South-east Asia on Thursday (Dec 7) reacted strongly to US President Donald Trump's controversial decision to reverse a decades-old American policy and recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

"I call on all Muslims across the world to let your voices be heard, make it clear that we strongly oppose any recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital for all time," said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in his speech at an annual gathering of ruling party Umno in Kuala Lumpur.

His comments follow a statement by the Malaysian Foreign Ministry warning that the move by Mr Trump could result in grave repercussions toward the security and stability of the region, making efforts to combat terrorism all the more difficult.

Also condemning the move was Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who urged the US to reconsider the move.

"Such a unilateral recognition violates various resolutions of the (United Nations) Security Council and the UN General Assembly, which America is a permanent member of," said Mr Joko in between meetings at the presidential palace in Bogor.

His comments came after Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said Indonesia would always stand by Palestine, echoing the fierce condemnation of the latest Trump decision from countries in the Middle East.

"We condemn this recognition," said Ms Retno, who was wearing the iconic black-and-white checkered Palestinian scarf while delivering her opening speech at the 10th Bali Democracy Forum on Thursday.

"I stand here… wearing the Palestinian scarf to show the strong commitment of Indonesia, of the people of Indonesia, to always be with the Palestinian people, for their rights, Indonesia will always stand with Palestine," she added.

Ms Retno had earlier in the week spoken with US Ambassador to Indonesia, Mr Joseph Donovan, to express Indonesia's deep concern over the issue of the status of Jerusalem, and to persuade the White House against recognising Jerusalem as the capital.

She said that any change in the status of Jerusalem "will endanger the peace process and peace itself".

Mr Trump's decision on Wednesday overturns decades of US policy and risks triggering a fresh spasm of violence in the Middle East.

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Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hails US President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as 'historic', and calls on other countries also to move their embassies to Jerusalem.

Indonesia has been a strong advocate of the two-state solution for the longstanding Middle East conflict, which envisions an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital alongside Israel.

Malaysia's Foreign Ministry also warned that any attempts to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, establishing or transferring any diplomatic mission to the city, are considered aggression towards the Arab and Islamic world, and an infringement on the rights of Muslims and Christians.

"It is also an infringement on the Palestinian people's national rights, including their right to self-determination, and a grave breach of international law along with the Security Council's relevant resolutions," it said.

The ministry requested that United Nations member states not recognise any changes in the pre-1976 borders, including in connection with Jerusalem.

"Recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is not a recognition of the reality on the ground; it is an expression of support for Israeli policies, much of which is in contravention of international law," it said.

Both Indonesia and Malaysia are the two largest Muslim-majority nations in Asean.

Leaders of Indonesia's Nahdlatul Ulama, widely regarded as the world's largest Islamic organisation, also expressed concerns that Mr Trump's position on Jerusalem would disrupt and undermine world peace. "This attitude will lead to more heated situations around the world and endless conflicts," said the group in a statement on Thursday.

Separately, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in a statement said the future status of Jerusalem should be decided through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, as it reaffirmed the Republic's longstanding and consistent support for a two-state solution.

In response to media queries on Mr Trump's announcement on Wednesday, the MFA spokesman said the status of Jerusalem is a sensitive and complex issue with a long history, and any premature and unilateral action to alter the status of Jerusalem will impede progress for a peaceful resolution of the Middle East and Palestinian problem.

Singapore reaffirms its longstanding and consistent support for a two-state solution, which will involve the establishment of an independent Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel, added the MFA.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, Singapore's Environment and Water Resources Minister, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, said the MFA statement reflects Singapore's stand on the issue - recognition of the two-state solution and its tandem resolutions.

"I wish the stakeholders keep the peace as many sound and fair-minded countries help to resolve this long-drawn, complex and sensitive issue. We must not add fodder to the situation that has for decades justified mindless violence by terrorists and enmity between neighbours - a dark history the human race can do without," he said.

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