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U.S. Tells UN It Is Still Committed To Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process


Worshippers chant as they hold Palestinian flags after Friday prayers in Jerusalem's Old City December 8.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations says President Donald Trump remains committed to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, as the backlash continued against the controversial U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

"Let me again assure you, the president and this administration remain committed to the peace process," Ambassador Nikki Haley said on December 8 during an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council called to discuss the matter.

The meeting came as thousands of Palestinians protested in a "day of rage" in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip, and in East Jerusalem against the decision, which broke long-standing U.S. policy in the Middle East.

U.S. allies from Germany and Saudi Arabia to Britain and the European Union have condemned Trump's decision and said it would make negotiating peace in the region more difficult.

Haley insisted that the United States remains a credible mediator with both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and instead suggested it was the United Nations that was hampering peace negotiations.

"The United States has credibility with both sides. Israel will never be, and should never be, bullied into an agreement by the United Nations, or by any collection of countries that have proven their disregard for Israel's security," Haley told the Security Council.

'Serious Risk' Of Escalation

Nevertheless, Security Council members pushed back against the December 6 decision by Trump, which also included a vow to shift the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a process that could take three to four years to complete.

Britain described the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as "unhelpful" for the peace process and said it "encouraged" the United States to put forward "detailed proposals" for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement.

Egypt's UN ambassador, Amr Aboulatta, said the U.S. decision would have "a grave, negative impact" on peace efforts.

UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov said there was a "serious risk" of an escalation of violence in the region in reaction to the decision, which "can only push us further away from achieving our shared goal of peace."

In the region and elsewhere, protests continued for a second straight day.

Hundreds of Palestinians clashed with Israeli security forces along the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, leaving at least two protesters dead and dozens injured, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

The Israeli military said in a statement that soldiers "fired selectively at two main instigators" and confirmed hitting them.

These were the first deaths since clashes erupted across the Palestinian territories after Trump's announcement.

Thousands of Palestinians also battled with Israeli security forces in the West Bank cities of Hebron, Bethlehem, and Ramallah after the main weekly Muslim prayers, with protesters throwing stones at Israeli soldiers who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Hamas Calls For New 'Intifada'

Israel had deployed hundreds of additional police in Jerusalem as the Islamist group Hamas urged Palestinians to abandon peace efforts and launch a new uprising or "intifada" to protest Trump's move.

Demonstrations of solidarity with the Palestinians were staged in other Muslim-majority nations as well, including Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, and Egypt.

According to a report by Al-Jazeera TV, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said he would no longer talk to the United States until Trump reversed the decision on Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Ankara said Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Turkey next week for talks with his counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on a range of issues, including the United States' recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

U.S., Israeli Flags Burned

In Iran, tens of thousands of people rallied nationwide after Friday Prayers, with protesters in Tehran chanting "Death to America" and "Death to Israel" and burning U.S. and Israeli flags.

Tehran's Friday Prayers leader, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, said Trump's move proved that the "only solution to the Palestinian issue is an intifada."

"Inflict as much damage as you can on this occupying and criminal regime," Khatami said, referring to Israel.

Two previous intifadas -- in 1987-1993 and 2000-2005 -- claimed the lives of thousands of Palestinians and over 1,000 Israelis.

Thousands of Lebanese and Palestinians marched in the streets of Beirut and thousands of others gathered near the Palestinian refugee camp of Chatilla in southern Lebanon.

In Turkey, thousands of people gathered outside a mosque in Istanbul's conservative Fatih district after Friday Prayers, waving Palestinian flags and chanting slogans against the United States and Israel.

Hundreds of Egyptians held protests at the famous Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo following Friday Prayers amid tightened security.

In Pakistan, rallies took place in the cities of Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi, with protesters burning effigies of Trump and chanting "Down with America" and "Down with Israel."

More than 1,000 Afghans staged protests in central Kabul, with demonstrators holding banners reading "Death to Israel" and "Death to America" and burning effigies of Trump as well as American and Israeli flags.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinians regard it as the capital of their future state. Israel has annexed East Jerusalem and declared all of the city as its capital, a move never recognized by the international community. Most countries have their embassies in Tel Aviv.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa, the BBC, The New York Times, and RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal

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