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    Pence, in Jerusalem, says honoured to be in ‘Israel’s capital’

    U.S. Vice President Mike Pence pointedly referred to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Monday as he met the country’s leader, further vexing Palestinians who have already snubbed his visit over a U.S. policy shift towards the holy city.
    President Donald Trump last month acknowledged Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and said he would move the U.S. embassy there – dismaying Palestinians who claim the eastern part of the city and angering Arab states across the region.
    Pence, who is part-way through an official visit to the Middle East, said in Egypt on Saturday and again in Jordan on Sunday that Washington would support a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians if they both agreed to it. (nL1N1PF0FQ)
    On Monday he said he was honoured to be “in Israel’s capital, Jerusalem” at the start of talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
    Echoing that sentiment, Netanyahu told the vice president. “This is the first time that I stand here where both leaders can say those three words: ‘Israel’s capital Jerusalem.’”
    Pence said Trump’s declaration, which most of America’s main allies beyond the Middle East have also criticized, provided new opportunities for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
    “I also am here hopeful that we are at the dawn of a new era of renewed discussions to achieve a peaceful resolution to the decades-long conflict that has affected this region,” Pence said.
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has called the declaration a “slap in the face”, left for an overseas visit before the vice president’s arrival.
    “The American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the occupation are illegitimate. The American administration must not contribute to escalating the situation further,” said Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Abbas, after Pence’s remarks.
    Palestinians want East Jerusalem, including the walled Old City with its holy sites, as capital of their own future state.
    Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem after capturing it in 1967 in a move not internationally recognized, regards all of the city as its “eternal and indivisible capital”.

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