Jerusalem Jerusalem 

Church leaders urge British PM not to move embassy to Jerusalem

The Council of the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem, alongside Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, say the move to relocate the UK Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem would hinder any possibility of lasting peace in the region. They call on the British Government to instead redouble its diplomatic efforts toward facilitating the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

By Lisa Zengarini

The leaders of the Christian Churches in Jerusalem have joined in expressing their deep concerns over the possible transfer of the UK Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem  

A controversial decision

British Prime Minister Liz Truss hinted to this possibility on September 21 during a bilateral meeting in New York with her Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid. The proposed  relocation has spurred strong criticism, including from the Palestinian leaders and the Arab League, as both Israeli and Palestinian authorities claim Jerusalem to be their capital city. This is the reason why most nations, including the United Kingdom, use Tel Aviv as their diplomatic headquarters.

The US have already relocated their embassy to Jerusalem. The move was announced in 2017 by the Trump Administration and sparked international condemnation. 

In a statement released on Monday, the Council of the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem said the relocation of the UK embassy would be “a further impediment to advancing the already moribund Peace Process", between Israel and the Palestinians.

The special status of Jerusalem

The statement, signed amongst others by the Latin Patriarch Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, recalls  that “Jerusalem has long been recognized by the International Community, including the United Kingdom, as having a special status (Corpus Separatum), aimed at safeguarding the freedom of religion, the sacred character of Jerusalem as a Holy City, and the respect for, and freedom of access to, its holy places”. This special status , the Christian leaders say , "is essential for preserving the harmony of our Holy City and good relations between religious communities around the globe”

According to the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem,  the relocation of the British Embassy to the Holy City,  “would severely undermine this key principle of Corpus Separatum and the political negotiations that it seeks to advance”.  

“The very act of reviewing the placement of the British Embassy not only suggests that negotiated agreements regarding Jerusalem and the West Bank have already resolved the ongoing disputes between the involved parties—when in fact they have not—but also implies that no such negotiations are needed: that the continuing military occupation of those territories and the unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem are both acceptable. We cannot believe that this is the message that the British government wishes to send to the world.”

Need to redouble diplomatic efforts for lasting peace in the Holy Land

The Christian leaders therefore urge the British Government to instead  “redouble its diplomatic efforts” toward facilitating the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority “in order to move forward with a time-limited and phased  Peace Initiative all in accordance with International Law annd relevant UN resolutions”

"Only through such an Initiative, will just and lasting peace ever be established in Jerusalem and throughout the Middle East”, the statement concludes.

Cardinal Nichols' and Archbishop Welby's concerns

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster,  as well as the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby,  have also voiced their concern over the move and its consequences.

In a letter addressed last week to PM Truss, the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Engalnd and Wales (CBCEW), asked her to reconsider the idea and “to focus all efforts on seeking a two-state solution, in which Jerusalem would have a guaranteed special status.”

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12 October 2022, 17:26