Australia recognizes West Jerusalem as Israeli capital, won't move embassy

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Saturday morning local time that Australia would recognize West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

However, he declared that Australia would hold off on moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and acknowledged Palestinian demands to a capital in East Jerusalem as part of an eventual peace agreement.

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“Australia now recognizes West Jerusalem, being the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of government, is the capital of Israel,” Morrison said at a press conference in Sydney. 

“We look forward to moving our embassy to West Jerusalem when practical, in support of and after final status determination,” he added while affirming his administration’s commitment to a two-state solution.

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

“We’re committed to a two-state solution, but frankly, it hasn’t been going that well,” Morrison said in October. “Not a lot of progress has been made. And you don’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results.”

The status of Jerusalem is considered by many to be the most contentious issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declaring it the eternal, undivided capital of the Jewish state while Palestinians insist that any peace deal must include East Jerusalem as the future capital of Palestine.

Home to the al-Aqsa mosque, the Western Wall and the Via Dolorosa, the city holds sacred sites for all three Abrahamic religions. Israel captured the eastern part of the city in the 1967 war and has built dozens of settlements in that area, which are considered illegal under international law. Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been internationally recognized.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpFormer Joint Chiefs chairman: 'The last thing in the world we need right now is a war with Iran' Pence: 'We're not convinced' downing of drone was 'authorized at the highest levels' Trump: Bolton would take on the whole world at one time MORE broke with decades of U.S. policy last December when he announced that the U.S. would formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move its embassy there.