Tillerson: Jerusalem embassy move may not take place for at least 2 years

US Secreatry of States Rex Tillerson speaks with French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Paris on Friday. (Reuters)
Updated 09 December 2017

Tillerson: Jerusalem embassy move may not take place for at least 2 years

PARIS/BRUSSELS: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Friday that the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem would probably not take place for at least two years.
“This is not something that is going to happen this year or probably not next year, but the president does want us to move in a very concrete and steadfast way to ensure the embassy is located in Jerusalem when we’re able to do so, at the earliest possible time,” Tillerson said after talks in Paris with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
Listing the steps involved in moving the embassy from Tel Aviv, Tillerson said the US needed to acquire a site, develop plans, receive congressional authorization for the spending “and then actually building the embassy.”
He reiterated that the move was not intended to prejudge the outcome of future peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
“The president in his statement ... did not indicate any final status for Jerusalem. In fact he was I think very clear that the final status, including the borders, would be left to the parties to negotiate and decide,” he added.
His remarks came as the fallout from President Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — renouncing nearly seven decades of US foreign policy — continued to reverberate, with Palestinians staging a “day of rage.”
Tillerson also met President Emmanuel Macron, who has joined a host of world leaders in condemning the move.

EU diplomacy
France said on Friday the US had sidelined itself in the Middle East by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but the EU’s top diplomat insisted Washington remains a mediator as Europe struggled for unity in its diplomacy.
The decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem revived old tensions between EU governments that want to see peace in the Middle East but have varying degrees of sympathy toward Israel and the Palestinians.
“I hear some, including Mr. Tillerson, say things will happen in time and the hour is for negotiations. Until now (the US) could have had a mediation role in this conflict, but it has excluded itself a little,” the French foreign minister said, referring to Tillerson, who is in Paris for talks after visiting Brussels and Vienna.
“The reality is they are alone and isolated on this issue,” he told France Inter radio.
With Britain distracted by its planned exit from the EU, France is trying to lead Europe in Middle East negotiations, organizing a peace conference last January.
But it is EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini who represents the bloc in the Middle East Quartet of the US, UN, the EU and Russia.
On Thursday, Mogherini pledged to reinvigorate diplomacy with Russia, the US, Jordan and others to ensure Palestinians have a capital in Jerusalem too. She said Washington was still a pivotal peacemaker.
But Hungary blocked a statement planned by all EU 28 governments in response to Trump’s announcement of Wednesday, leaving it to Mogherini to deliver a rejection of it.
On Wednesday evening, the Czech Foreign Ministry said it would begin considering moving the Czech Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “only based on results of negotiations with key partners in the region and in the world.” Many in Israel saw the Czech ministry’s statement as an endorsement of Trump’s move.
But Mogherini said on Friday Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek had reassured her the statement was “definitely not an act of support for the US administration’s decision.”
“He guaranteed to me that the Czech Republic stays firmly with the common European consolidated position,” Mogherini told a news conference with Jordan’s foreign minister.
Prague accepts Israel’s sovereignty only over West Jerusalem, diplomats say. Palestinians want the capital of a future state they seek to be in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed in a move not recognized internationally.

Meeting with Israeli PM

Mogherini stressed that all EU governments were united on the issue of Jerusalem and in seeking a solution envisaging a Palestinian state in territory — the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem — that Israel took 50 years ago.
The EU believes it has a duty to make its voice heard as the Palestinians’ biggest aid donor and Israel’s biggest trade partner, but policy divisions within the bloc have weakened its influence.
EU foreign ministers will aim to present a unified front to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a meeting in Brussels on Monday. A senior French diplomat said it was crucial that EU governments had a clear message for the Israeli premier.
“What we are going to try and do is convince our European partners when we meet Netanyahu ...to tell him that what is happening with the United States is a serious issue for him, Israel and any peace prospect,” the diplomat said.
EU governments have a range of positions, from the Czech Republic’s strong support for Israel, also shared by Germany, to Sweden’s 2014 decision to recognize a future state of Palestine.
The EU is also perceived by some in Israel as being too pro-Palestinian, partly because of the EU’s long-held opposition to Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.


Turkish police arrest journalist Altan a week after his release

Updated 13 November 2019

Turkish police arrest journalist Altan a week after his release

  • Altan and the others deny the charges against them
  • On Tuesday a higher court overruled the decision to release Altan, ordering his arrest on grounds that there was a risk of him fleeing

ISTANBUL: Turkish police detained prominent journalist and author Ahmet Altan late on Tuesday, a week after he was released from prison in his retrial on coup-related charges, Istanbul police said.

Before his release last Monday, the 69-year-old had been in jail since his arrest in 2016, two months after an attempted coup which Ankara says was orchestrated by the network of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The journalist’s case has drawn criticism from human rights groups and Turkey’s Western allies. They are concerned by the scale of a post-coup crackdown against suspected Gulen supporters under President Tayyip Erdogan.

Altan smiled and waved as he was driven away by counter-terror squad police officers after being taken from his home in Istanbul, video and photos published by Turkish media showed.

He was taken to Istanbul police headquarters after a hospital check-up, state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.

Altan, his brother and other journalists were previously sentenced to life in jail for aiding Gulen’s network. Last week he was convicted again in a retrial, but released from jail given the time served.

Altan and the others deny the charges against them.

On Tuesday a higher court overruled the decision to release Altan, ordering his arrest on grounds that there was a risk of him fleeing, Anadolu reported.

Under last week’s verdict, Altan was sentenced to 10 years and six months in jail. Turkey’s high court had overruled the previous life sentences against him in July, sending the file back for re-trial.

Erdogan’s government has jailed more than 77,000 people pending trial since the failed putsch. Widespread arrests are still routine in a crackdown critics say demonstrates growing autocracy in Turkey.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, and his followers deny any involvement in the coup. Turkey has repeatedly called on the United States to extradite the cleric.