Pence: US to open embassy in Jerusalem in 2019

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the White House Washington D.C

US President Donald Trump will formalize his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital by transferring the US embassy there from Tel Aviv in 2019, vice president Mike Pence told the Israeli parliament.

During his December speech, Trump also said the USA would move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, a decision that Pence confirmed in his speech to the Knesset.

Pence's visit, which is being boycotted across the board by Palestinians, is the highest-level U.S. visit to the region since Trump on December 6 unilaterally recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital and promised to begin the process of moving the American embassy to the city, whose status is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

On Sunday, the PA leader Mahmoud Abbas called a peace plan being formulated by Trump the "slap of the century" and claimed Israel was a European "colonial project".

Pence used his speech to call on the Palestinians to come back to the negotiating table, reiterating that the US will support a two-state solution if both sides agreed to it. Pence's remarks reflected an interim plan to retrofit an existing USA consulate in Jerusalem to serve as a full embassy.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Dr Saeb Erekat later tweeted that Mr Pence's "message to the rest of the world is clear: violate global law and resolutions and the United States will reward you".

Mogherini was asked about the changing role of the U.S.in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and responded: "We have been engaged with our American friends through the Quartet [on the Middle East]".

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called the boycott a disgrace, telling the Knesset on Monday that Trump's decision would go down as historic.

Another Knesset member reportedly yelled, "You are free to give up IN but not Jerusalem!" - referring to Pence's home state.

Officials have said that it will take a few years before the embassy could be moved there.

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However all plans changed after the Palestinians decided against meeting United States officials following Trump's highly criticized move on Jerusalem.

"I want to reassure President Abbas of the firm commitment of the European Union to the two-state solution with Jerusalem as the shared capital of the two states", said Federica Mogherini, high representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

"The Americans can not talk about the peace process after they have undermined it following (US President Donald Trump's) recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital", Ashrawi told Voice of Palestine radio.

"The United States of America will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon", said Pence.

"Obstacles occur here and there, but this will not make us relinquish our belief that the only path for peace is negotiations with worldwide participation and supervision", Abbas said.

Mr Trump's decision has been interpreted by his critics as America taking Israel's side in the conflict.

Abbas's visit to Brussels coincided with US Vice President Mike Pence's trip to Israel, which is the third leg of his five-day tour to the Middle East starting from Friday.

Mohammad Al-Masri, told PNN reporter that the event carried the same message of a previous protest which took place following Trumo's declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Update 2pm: U.S. vice president Mike Pence has "strongly" urged the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.

Israel and the United States "are striving together to achieve a true peace, lasting peace, peace with all our neighbours, including the Palestinians", Netanyahu said.

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