United States to open Jerusalem embassy sooner than expected

PA leader Mahmoud Abbas

PA leader Mahmoud Abbas

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence planned a visit, called it off and finally arrived in Israel Sunday during a dramatic shut down of his government.

Pence's statement follows President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital last month, a move that overturned decades of American policy and worldwide consensus on the status of the holy city, the New York Times reported.

The embassy move was expected to take as long as four years, but according to Pence the timeline has been moved up.

Netanyahu warmly welcomed Pence, who said it was an honor to be in "Israel's capital, Jerusalem". In his meeting with Egypt's president, Pence pledged firm USA backing in the nation's fight against Islamist militants and said ties between the two countries had never been stronger after a period of "drifting apart".

Last month, Trump announced that Washington would recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as the capital of Israel and would relocate the USA embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the occupied city. The members were forcefully removed from the hall. "The one, who does not want to discuss peace with the United States side, does not want peace", Netanyahu said at the meeting with Israeli ambassadors.

Jerusalem contains numerous sacred sites claimed by Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and is where Jesus Christ preached, died, and was later resurrected. Pence's remarks reflected an interim plan to retrofit an existing US consulate in Jerusalem to serve as a full embassy.

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The Vice-President's speech was briefly interrupted at the beginning when a handful of Arab members of the Israeli parliament jumped to their feet holding signs saying Jerusalem was the capital of Palestine.

Pence's visit to the Middle East is the highest-level visit by a US official to the region since President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December.

King Abdullah II, a staunch United States ally, also said the decision by Washington to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem "does not come as a result of a comprehensive settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict".

Pence made no statement on arrival in Israel.

As the leaders sat down to meet, a reporter asked if the U.S. Embassy can be moved to Jerusalem by next year. Abbas says the USA is no longer an honest broker because it favors Israel.

"The United States of America will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon", he said. However, that position angered the Palestinians, with whom Pence has no plans to meet, and which also caused displeasure among the Arab allies of the United States. "This has to come through direct negotiations", said Mogherini.

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