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US to launch 'unified embassy for Israel-Palestine' in March

A Palestinian flag hangs on the fence of the US General Consulate in Jerusalem[AFP/Getty Images]

Date of publication: 20 February, 2019

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The US Consulate General, a separate office which formerly handles dealings with Palestinians, will be replaced by a new "Palestinian Affairs Unit" inside the Israeli embassy in March.
The United States Consulate General in Jerusalem, which serves Palestinians, will be merged with the controversial new US Embassy in Jerusalem in March, a US official said on Tuesday, effectively creating a unified embassy for both Israelis and Palestinians.

The US decision to merge its consulate for Palestinians with its new Israeli embassy in the holy city claimed by both sides was announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last October. At the time it was unclear when the merger would take place.

"The merger of the consulate and the embassy will take place on March 4th or 5th, at which point the position of the consul-general will end," a US official has now specified, in remarks quoted by Reuters.   

The US Consulate General, a separate office which formerly handles dealings with Palestinians, will be replaced by a new "Palestinian Affairs Unit" inside the Israeli embassy.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) has condemned the move, which could effectively leave the US as the only major power without a specific representative office for the Palestinians.

Pompeo has denied that the decision represents a shift in relations with the Palestinian Authority.

"The administration is strongly committed to achieving a lasting and comprehensive peace that offers a brighter future to Israel and the Palestinians," he said.

Analysts say the Trump administration is aiming to pressure the Palestinians into peace talks with Israel. President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner has liaised with the Israelis on a secret peace plan that it believed will favour Israel. 

President Trump provoked outrage across the world when he recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital last December.

Jerusalem is claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians. Most foreign nations have avoided locating embassies there for fear of prejudging peace talks on the city's final status - until Trump unilaterally moved the US embassy there.

The US embassy was officially transferred from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on 14 May, sparking violent protests in Gaza, where about 60 Palestinian protestors were killed by Israeli soldiers.

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