12:45 GMT08 March 2021
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    Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad criticized Australia’s move to recognize West Jerusalem on Sunday, saying that countries have “no rights” to do so.

    Australia announced this week that it would recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but will not yet move the embassy from Tel Aviv.

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    “Jerusalem should remain as it is now and not the capital of Israel,” Mahathir said on the sidelines of an event in Bangkok. “Jerusalem has always been under Palestine, so why are they taking the initiative to divide Jerusalem […] They have no rights.”

    Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country, has been a prominent supporter of the two-state solution, as Jerusalem is considered to be a sacred place to Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths, making it a major obstacle to an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. Palestine wants East Jerusalem to be recognized as the capital of a Palestinian state, while Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital, including the eastern sector that was annexed in the 1967 Middle East war.

    Israel’s foreign ministry on Sunday praised Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s decision, calling it “a step in right direction.” However, Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel’s minister for regional cooperation, remained critical, saying that 'there is no division between the east of the city and west of the city.'

    Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat claimed Australia’s decision was due to “petty domestic politics.”

    “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,” he said.

    In May, the United States relocated its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, prompting outrage across the Muslim world. Brazil, the Czech Republic, Guatemala and Honduras have also recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. The United Nations has urged member states to refrain from moving diplomatic missions to Jerusalem until the city’s legal status is settled.


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