Recognition of Jerusalem: Confrontation will hurt ties, US warns Pakistan

ISLAMABAD – The United States has warned Pakistan from going too far against Washington on the Jerusalem issue as it could hurt the already fragile relationship, diplomatic sources said.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that the US was not happy over Pakistan’s strong reaction and had urged Islamabad to “play safe”.

One official said: “We told them the recognition of Jerusalem by the US as Israel’s capital was unacceptable but they are expecting from us to move on and refrain from confrontation [with the US] on ‘petty’ issues. We cannot obviously betray the Muslim world.”

He added: “Pakistan is determined to spearhead the Jerusalem campaign. We will not come under any pressure.”

Trump’s controversial decision came when Pak-US relations were already at a low ebb. Last week, US Defence Secretary James Mattis visited Pakistan and asked Pakistan to show “practical change” regarding the indiscriminate action against the militants.

In August, US President Donald Trump accused Pakistan of protecting “agents of chaos” and threatened to end the alliance, if Pakistan did not show results.

The US is also angry over the release of Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed. Washington has asked Pakistan to re-arrest and try him.

The US and India accuse Saeed of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.

Over the weekend, the White House called for “calm and moderation” as protests broke out worldwide after US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Trump urged all parties to “act in a manner conducive to peace,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said.

Demonstrators marched in Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, Egypt, Europe and Palestine. Israeli forces killed four Palestinian protesters.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said at least 767 wounded people were treated during the course of the second “day of rage” clashes.

Another official at the foreign ministry said Pakistan had asked Washington not to link the Jerusalem issue with the bilateral ties.

“Jerusalem is a global issue on which Pakistan has a longstanding stance. Pakistan otherwise is keen to improve ties with the US,” he told The Nation.

The official said Pakistan would take up the Jerusalem issue at all international forums and stand with the Muslim world in “this hour of need.”

Earlier, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said Pakistan was “gravely concerned” on Trump’s decision to shift the US embassy to the occupied City of Al-Quds Al-Sharif, altering the legal and historical status of the city.

“Such a step constitutes a clear violation of the international law and [the] UN Security Council Resolutions, particularly UNSCR 478 of 1980,” he added.

Faisal said Pakistan called for establishment of a viable, independent and contiguous State of Palestine, on the basis of internationally-agreed parameters, the pre-1967 borders, and with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

International relations expert Dr Talat Wizarat said Trump’s decision on Jerusalem had disappointed the whole world and infuriated all the Muslims.

“This is not a small issue. It relates to more than one billion Muslims living across the world. Pakistan has a decades-old stance on Jerusalem and Palestine. The government cannot change this policy under any pressure,” she said. Wizarat said the Muslims across the world must have a united stand on Jerusalem, forcing Trump to reverse his decision.

Former ambassador Mushtaq Ahmed Mehr said Pakistan was the leading Muslim-majority country and other Muslims had great expectation from Islamabad. “Pak-US ties are important but we cannot compromise on the Kashmir and Palestine issues. [The] US must admit it has made a mistake by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. No Muslim country will accept this decision. Even the Western countries are not supporting Trump’s decision,” he said.

Mehr said protest marches were held in Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden in solidarity with the Palestinian people, which proved it was a global issue.

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