Tuesday, March 18, 2008

McCain backs Jerusalem as 'Israeli capital'

by Ahmad Khatib

AMMAN (AFP) - US Republican presidential candidate John McCain said on Tuesday that he supports Israel's claim to the contested holy city of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state.

"I support Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," McCain said in Jordan on the latest leg of a regional tour.

Israel annexed Arab east Jerusalem after the 1967 Middle East war and declared it part of its eternal undivided capital, a claim not recognised by the international community.

The fate of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest issues in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict and renewed Israeli settlement activity in the occupied eastern part is hampering peace talks revived only in November.

The Palestinians, who want to make the eastern sector the capital of their future promised state, said McCain's statements contradicted the two-state solution to the Middle East conflict laid out by US President George W. Bush.

"They do not represent the position of the US administration which considers all the Palestinian areas occupied by Israel in 1967, including east Jerusalem as occupied territories," senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP.

"They also contradict the two-state vision of president Bush," he said in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The United States, along with other foreign governments, maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv.

In June, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution urging Bush to move the embassy to Jerusalem and congratulating Israel "on the 40th anniversary of the reunification of that historic city."

A "Jerusalem Embassy Act" was passed by Congress in 1995, that "Jerusalem should be recognised as the capital of the state of Israel." However, successive US presidents have deferred the actual move by six-month periods.

McCain, who is the Republican nomineee for the November race for the White House, insisted that he supported the Middle East peace process.

"I am committed to pursuing the Israel-Palestinian peace process and make it a high priority," he told reporters after he toured the Roman Citadel site in downtown Amman.

"I know that the people of Israel and the Palestinian people want to see a peaceful settlement as both sides suffered enormously," he said.

"I think it will be enormously helpful if... Gaza is not governed by an entity that is committed to the extinction of the state of Israel."

McCain was referring to the Islamist movement Hamas, which in June evicted Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's forces from the Gaza Strip and seized control of the territory.

"One of the fundamentals of moving a peace process forward is recognising that the person you are negotiating with (has) the right to exist. I hope that is made clear by the United States government." (Source)


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