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Mon 1 Jan 2018 11:54 AM

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Palestinians recall envoy to US to consult over Jerusalem move

Trump's declaration upended decades of precedent and broke with international consensus

Palestinians recall envoy to US to consult over Jerusalem move
The State of Palestines President Mahmoud Abbas Photo by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images

The Palestinians said Sunday they were recalling their envoy to the United States for consultations in a move that follows US President Donald Trump's designation of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Palestinian foreign minister Riad al-Malki decided to recall PLO envoy to Washington Husam Zomlot to consult, official Palestinian news agency WAFA said, without providing further details.

Trump's December 6 announcement regarding the disputed city deeply angered the Palestinians and led to unrest.

Palestinian officials had earlier said president Mahmud Abbas would refuse to meet US Vice President Mike Pence during a visit to the region that had been planned for December but which was later cancelled.

Abbas has also said he would accept no further role for the United States in the Middle East peace process.

Violence since Trump's announcement has left 13 Palestinians dead, with most killed in clashes with Israeli forces.

On Sunday, while marking the 53rd anniversary of his Fatah movement, Abbas called Jerusalem "the eternal capital of the Palestinian people".

Jerusalem's status is perhaps the most sensitive issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel sees the entire city as its capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.

Israel has hailed Trump's decision as historic and urged other countries to follow suit.

Guatemala is so far the only country to do so, saying it planned to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

No countries currently have their embassies in Jerusalem, instead keeping them in the Israeli commercial capital Tel Aviv.

Damaged ties

Trump's declaration upended decades of precedent and broke with international consensus, drawing global condemnation.

He noted in his decision that Jerusalem's final status would have to be decided in negotiations between the two sides, but the Palestinians are not convinced.

Many analysts have questioned how a fair peace process could be possible after such a major concession was made without seeming to demand anything in return.

The White House has been working on ways to restart long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, but the Jerusalem declaration has threatened to end any such attempt if ties cannot be repaired.

Relations between the Palestinians and Washington had already taken a hit in November when the United States threatened to close the Palestine Liberation Organisation's office in Washington.

Trump has a 90-day window to avert the closure if he deems progress has been made.

Under long-standing US law, permission for the PLO to maintain its mission in Washington must be renewed every six months.

US officials say that by calling for Israeli officials to be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court, Palestinian leaders have breached the terms of the arrangement.

While Palestinian leaders have been outraged by Trump's move, they also face difficult choices in how to respond since they rely on US aid and would like to salvage remaining hopes of a two-state solution to the conflict.