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BEIRUT: Arabs and Muslims across a Middle East on edge warned on Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s anticipated announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would inflame Muslim feelings worldwide and bring further chaos and instability to the region.
Criticism poured in from Tehran to Ankara to war-ravaged Syria, reflecting the anxiety ahead of the announcement which upends decades of US policy and risks potentially violent protests.
US officials say Trump will instruct the State Department to begin the multi-year process of moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city. Speaking on condition of anonymity Tuesday because they were not authorized to publicly preview Trump’s announcement, the officials said they expected a broad statement from Trump about Jerusalem’s status as the “capital of Israel.”
Jerusalem includes the holiest ground in Judaism. But it’s also home to Islam’s third-holiest shrine and major Christian sites, and forms the combustible center of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Any perceived harm to Muslim claims to the city has triggered volatile protests in the past, both in the Holy Land and across the Muslim world.
In Beirut, a few hundred Palestinian refugees staged a protest in the narrow streets of the Bourj al-Barajneh camp, some of them chanting “Trump, you are mad.”
“We came here to tell Trump that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine,” said Nada Adlouni, a Palestinian refugee.
Two leading Lebanese newspapers issued front page rebukes to Trump over his expected announcement.
The An-Nahar newspaper compared the US president to the late British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, who a hundred years ago famously promised Palestine as a national home to the Jewish People, in what is known as the Balfour declaration.
The paper’s Wednesday headline read: “Trump, Balfour of the century, gifts Jerusalem to Israel.”
The English-language Daily Star newspaper published a full-page photo of the Old City of Jerusalem capped by the Dome of the Rock beneath the headline: “No offense Mr. President, Jerusalem is the capital of PALESTINE.”
The Arab League said it will hold an emergency meeting for foreign ministers on Saturday and Turkey announced it would host a meeting of Islamic nations next week to give Muslim countries’ leaders an opportunity to act together and coordinate following Trump’s move.
Palestinian officials declared the Mideast peace process “finished.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, slammed Trump’s imminent recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel while in Syria, a Foreign Ministry statement said the anticipated announcement is a “dangerous step” that will fuel global conflict. It described Trump’s imminent move as the “culmination of the crime of the seizing of Palestine and the displacement of the Palestinian people” and urged Arab states to stop normalizing relations with Israel.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the “whole world is against” President Donald Trump’s move and argued that moving the embassy to Jerusalem would be a “grave mistake.”
Cavusoglu’s remarks came just before a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday.
He said such a move would “not bring any stability, peace but rather chaos and instability.”