US downgrades its Jerusalem mission to Palestinians

US downgrades its Jerusalem mission to Palestinians

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The United States has downgraded the status of its main diplomatic mission to the Palestinians by placing it under the authority of the US Embassy to Israel.

The move, which was immediately denounced by the Palestinians, is a victory for US ambassador David Friedman. He had long sought to end the Jerusalem consulate’s independent status but had faced resistance from within the State Department.

Mr Friedman’s push picked up steam in May after the Trump administration moved the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem over the objections of the Palestinians, who claim the eastern part of the city as the capital of an eventual state.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

The consulate had for years served as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians but will now be known as the Palestinian Affairs Unit of the embassy. It will remain in its current location, at least for now.

The step, which was announced by US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, means that the Jerusalem consulate will no longer have a separate channel to Washington to report on Palestinian affairs.

“The specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties.”

Nabil Shaath, the international affairs adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said it was a “very bad decision” that violated past agreements and continued President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“Now, he is cutting the last connection he is said to have with the Palestinian people. He is practically saying Jerusalem is for Israel,” Mr Shaath said.

“This decision has nothing to do with peace. It complicates peace and makes it impossible.”

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