Scott Morrison open to moving Australia's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

Australia considers following US on Jerusalem embassy

Australia says it is considering recognizing Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel's "capital" and relocating its embassy to the occupied Palestinian city just as the United States did earlier this year in a move that drew draw harsh criticism both from Palestinians and the global community.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the idea was suggested to him by a former ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, who is a candidate for Morrison's conservative Liberal Party in a crucial by-election Saturday in a Sydney electorate with a large Jewish population.

Mr Trump opened the new USA embassy in the city in May.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Morrison had telephoned to explain his shift, said on Twitter he was "very thankful" Morrison was considering the move.

In a move that signals the Morrison Government's first major foreign policy shift, Mr Morrison told reporters this morning that Australia retains its commitment to a two-state solution in the Middle East, but said that a new approach was needed to push forward negotiations towards that goal.

"We will continue to strengthen ties between Israel and Australia", he added.

Morrison also said Australia would review its support for the Iran nuclear deal, under which sanctions were lifted in return for restraints on its nuclear programme "to determine whether our current policy settings remain fit for purpose".

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But the Labor opposition's Senate leader, Penny Wong, said Mr Morrison was playing "dangerous and deceitful word games with Australian foreign policy". If Sharma is not elected as the new lawmaker for Wentworth, the government will lose its single-seat majority in the House of Representatives.

The Trump administration turned its back on decades of U.S. policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv in May.

Morrison told news site The Australian on Monday that the recognition of Jerusalem had previously been discussed by top cabinet members, including former foreign minister Julie Bishop, after Trump announced the U.S. recognition of the Israeli capital last December.

"This is an irresponsible policy that compromises the future of millions of people in the Middle East", Browning said in a statement.

Despite the controversial move, Morrison appeared to voice his commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"I am open to further pursuing (moving the embassy) and doing that together with Cabinet colleagues", the Daily Telegraph quoted Morrison as saying.

Such a major shift in Australia's foreign policy would align Morrison's conservative government closer to the United States and Israel, but likely draw widespread condemnation from the Arab and Muslim world.

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