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December 12, 2017

India, China, Russia refrain from seeking East Jerusalem as Palestine capital

Agencies

New Delhi, Dec 12: India, Russia and China on Monday refrained from seeking East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine after a meeting of foreign ministers from the three countries met in New Delhi.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj hosted her Russian and Chinese counterparts Sergey Lavrov and Wang Yi for the 15th annual meeting of the Russia-India-China (RIC) in New Delhi.

The joint statement issued after the meeting called for "negotiations aimed at creating an independent, viable, territorially contiguous Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel within mutually agreed and internationally recognised borders". It, however, did not have any reference to East Jerusalem.

The last RIC joint statement issued after the 14th meeting of the foreign ministers of the three nations in Moscow in April 2016 had categorically called for East Jerusalem to be the capital of the future state of Palestine.

The move by Russia, India and China to drop the reference to East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine came just days after US President Donald Trump formally recognised the ancient holy city as the capital of Israel.

The US move evoked sharp criticism not only from Arab world, but also from Europe and many other nations. Trump also set in motion a plan to shift the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Moscow has expressed concern over the US move. Russia's ambassador to Israel, Alexander Shein, however, was quoted saying that Moscow had recognised West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in April this year. He, however, also said that Russia could consider shifting its embassy from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem after the "Palestinians and the Israelis agree on all issues of the final status" of the territories of Palestine.

China, however, reiterated its support to establishment of an independent sovereign Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital as recently as last week. "The status of Jerusalem must be determined through dialogue and negotiation on the basis of UN resolutions, and the two-state solution remains a viable, fundamental solution to the Palestinian issue," Wang said in Beijing after the US recognised the ancient city as the capital of Israel.

New Delhi declined to toe the US line on recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and stated that its position on Palestine was "independent and consistent" and shaped by its "views and interests, and not determined by any third country". India, however, refrained from reiterating its long-held view that eastern part of the holy city should be the capital of Palestine.

India in fact stopped calling for East Jerusalem to be the capital of Palestine this year. Hosting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in New Delhi in May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did call for "a sovereign, independent, united and viable Palestine, co-existing peacefully with Israel", but avoided supporting the demand for East Jerusalem to be the capital of Palestine. He carefully avoided referring to it during his visit to Israel in July – the first by a Prime Minister of India, although the two countries had established formal diplomatic relations in 1992. His message on the occasion of International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian People on November 25 last or India's statement to UN General Assembly on November 29 last too did not refer to the call for East Jerusalem to be the capital of Palestine.

The leaders of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) too refrained from calling for East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine when they issued a joint statement after the summit of the five-nation bloc at Xiamen in China in September. The statement issued after the BRICS summit in Goa in October 2016 had reiterated the call for East Jerusalem to be the capital of Palestine.

India, China, Russia refrain from seeking East Jerusalem as Palestine capital

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