East Jerusalem must serve as the capital of a Palestinian state, the European Union’s top diplomat insisted Monday.
“I want to reassure President [Mahmoud] Abbas of the firm commitment of the European Union to the two-state solution with Jerusalem as the shared capital of the two states,” Federica Mogherini, the high representative for foreign affairs, said during a press conference alongside the Palestinian Authority president.
The declaration is a symbolic victory for Abbas and the latest European rebuke of President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Their meeting coincided with Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to Israel, which comes about six weeks after Trump’s landmark announcement.
“Clearly there is a problem with Jerusalem,” Mogherini said in advance of the meeting with Abbas, per Reuters. “That is a very diplomatic euphemism.”
Such statements aren’t discouraging the Trump team. Pence reiterated the administration’s commitment to the new policy regarding Jerusalem in a speech to the Knesset, the Israeli national legislature.
"In the weeks ahead, our administration will advance its plan to open the United States Embassy in Jerusalem, and that United States Embassy will open before the end of next year,” Pence said Monday.
That’s a quicker pace than Secretary of State Rex Tillerson forecasted in December. “It’s not going to be anything that happens right away,” he said, days after Trump’s announcement. “Probably no earlier than three years out, and that’s pretty ambitious.”
U.S. officials have tried to embrace Trump’s decision without implementing it in a way that harms future peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. Accordingly, State Department officials have been vague about which parts of Jerusalem they regard as the long-term jurisdiction of the Israeli state.
“We’re not taking a position on the overall boundaries,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. “We are recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
Abbas’ team insists that the United States is trying to secure all of Jerusalem for Israel and called for the EU to recognize a Palestinian state. “If the Europeans want to be a player then they have to be fair in their treatment of both parties and this should start with the recognition of the state of Palestine,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki said Sunday, per the Times of Israel.