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Australian PM criticized for possibly recognizing Jerusalem as Israeli capital

16 October 2018

Australia might soon follow in controversial United States footsteps and relocate its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the country's new prime minister hinted after discussing the issue with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

Former senior diplomat John McCarthy has slammed the federal government's announcement that it is considering moving Australia's Israeli embassy to West Jerusalem, warning that such a move will be harshly judged by Islamic nations, including neighbouring Indonesia.

"We are committed to a two-state solution, but frankly, it hasn't been going that well - not a lot of progress has been made", he told reporters on Tuesday.

US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as the "capital" of Israel last December and moved the American embassy to the ancient city in May.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, October 16, 2018.

Mr Morrison's predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, had ruled out following the USA in moving Australia's embassy to Jerusalem.

"I've been very pleased with the response". Elections are slated to be held this weekend in a tight race that could rob Morrison of a majority in parliament.

"Foreign policy, and Australia's national interest are far too important to be played with in this fashion", Labor lawmaker Penny Wong said.

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Morrison came to power in August after a revolt by hardline conservatives in the Liberal party ousted his more moderate predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull.

While the possibility of relocating the Australian embassy to Jerusalem was welcomed by Netanyahu, Morrison's critics blamed the PM of catering to the Jewish electorate of Wentworth, where former Ambassador Sharma is trailing behind in the opinion polls ahead of the crucial parliamentary by-election scheduled this week.

Australia would be the second major country, after the United States, to make such a move.

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

Despite the controversial move, Morrison appeared to voice his commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Liberal candidate contesting the by-election on Saturday, Dave Sharma, is a former Australian ambassador to Israel who has floated the idea in the past.

"Indonesia asks Australia and other countries to support peace talks. and not take steps that would threaten that peace process and stability of world security", Marsudi said.

Mr Morrison confirmed he had also ordered a review into Australia's involvement in the nuclear deal with Iran, again bringing Australian foreign policy closer to that of President Trump.

Australian PM criticized for possibly recognizing Jerusalem as Israeli capital