Australia mulling embassy move to Jerusalem: PM

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison attends a news conference in Canberra, Australia, on August 24, 2018. (REUTERS File Photo)
Updated 16 October 2018
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Australia mulling embassy move to Jerusalem: PM

  • Morrison says he was “open-minded” to proposals to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying he had discussed the possible embassy move with Morrison
SYDNEY: Australia is considering moving its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Tuesday, following the lead of US President Donald Trump.
Morrison called a press conference to say he was “open-minded” to proposals to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move his nation’s embassy to the holy city, a sharp break with the policy of successive Australian governments for decades.
“We’re committed to a two-state solution, but frankly it hasn’t been going that well, not a lot of progress has been made, and you don’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results,” Morrison said.
He described proposals to recognize Jerusalem and move Australia’s embassy as “sensible” and “persuasive” and would be considered by the government.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying he had discussed the possible embassy move with Morrison.
“He informed me that he is considering officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel & moving the Australian embassy to Jerusalem. I’m very thankful to him for this,” Netanyahu tweeted.
The surprise announcement came just days before a crucial parliamentary by-election in a Sydney district that has a significant Jewish electorate and where the candidate for Morrison’s Liberal party, a former ambassador to Israel, is trailing in opinion polls.
A loss in the election would wipe out Morrison’s one-seat majority in parliament.
“Scott Morrison is now so desperate to hang on to his job, he is prepared to say anything if he thinks it will win him a few more votes -– even at the cost of Australia’s national interest,” said the opposition Labour party foreign policy spokeswoman Penny Wong.
Morrison came to power in August after a revolt by hard-line conservatives in the Liberal party ousted his more moderate predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull.
Turnbull’s government had explicitly distanced itself from the decision by Trump to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as “unhelpful” to the peace process.
Morrison rejected suggestions that his decision to consider following Trump’s lead was a result of US pressure or related to the by-election in Sydney’s Wentworth district on Saturday.
“I have made this decision without any reference to the United States,” he said. “It has not come up in any discussion that I have had with the president or officials.”
Trump’s move ruptured decades of international consensus that Jerusalem’s status should be settled as part of a two-state peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
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Kenyan police say gunmen kidnap Italian volunteer, wound 5 in attack on coast

Updated 34 min 36 sec ago
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Kenyan police say gunmen kidnap Italian volunteer, wound 5 in attack on coast

  • The wounded, who were all under the age of 25, were taken to hospital
  • The men, armed with AK-47 rifles, attacked the town of Chakama

NAIROBI: Kenya said on Wednesday gunmen kidnapped an Italian volunteer in the coastal region of Kilifi during an attack in which five people were wounded, the first time a foreigner has been abducted in the East African country in several years.
“The gang ... abducted an Italian lady aged 23 years who is a volunteer of Africa Milele Onlus, an NGO operating in the area,” the National Police Service said on Twitter.
The wounded, who were all under the age of 25, were taken to hospital and officers were pursuing the attackers, police said.
The men, armed with AK-47 rifles, attacked the town of Chakama on Tuesday evening, police said. The town is west of Malindi, a major tourism destination on the coast.
There was no immediate comment from the Italian government.
Police did not say if the gunmen were suspect militants from Al-Shabab, an Islamist group based in neighboring Somalia that has launched deadly attacks in Kenya for years, including the 2013 attack on a shopping mall in the capital, Nairobi, in which nearly 70 people were killed.
“Neither the reasons for the attack nor the identity of the attackers have been established,” police said.
An unidentified witness told Kenyan TV channel KTN News: “The European lady got out of her room, instead of lying on the ground, to inquire what was going on. One of the attackers then slapped her.”
“Their aim was to get money but they took off with her to the river and, before leaving the village, they started shooting in the air and they shot one woman and four boys,” the witness said.
The Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab aims to topple Somalia’s foreign-backed government and impose its own strict interpretation of Islam. They have intensified attacks in Kenya since it sent troops into Somalia in 2011.
Suspected Shabab militants have launched several attacks in recent months in which Kenyan soldiers have been killed but those attacks have all taken place in Lamu County, which is north of Kilifi and borders Somalia. The group has beheaded people in more than one of those attacks in Lamu County.
The town of Chakama in Kilifi County where the attack occurred is nearly 300 km (185 miles) southwest of the Kenya-Somalia border.