US President Donald Trump has formally recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The move was widely expected and was a campaign pledge made by Trump ahead of his election in 2016. “Today I am delivering,” said Trump in a televised speech from the White House on 6 December. “I judge this course of action to be in the best interests of the US and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This is a long overdue step in the peace process and a step towards a lasting agreement.”

Trump said he has instructed the State Department to build a new US embassy in the historic city. The US’ embassy is, like other nations, currently in the coastal city of Tel Aviv.

Trump also emphasises that the US remains committed to the peace process and wants a solution that is acceptable for both Israel and the Palestinians.

“This decision is not intended in any way to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement,” the president said. “We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians. We are not taking a position on any final status issues, including specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders. These questions are up to the parties involved.”

Trump’s announcement was widely expected and has sparked strong criticism from the Muslim world. On 5 December, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency expressing Riyadh’s “grave and deep concern” that the US intends to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem.

The statement said the move contradicts the principle of not affecting final status negotiations, and contradicts international resolutions that emphasise the historical and firm rights of the Palestinian people regarding Jerusalem.

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