Indonesia may suspend Australia trade deal over Jerusalem stance

The new Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison attends a news conference in Canberra Australia Au

Australia's new prime minister, Scott Morrison said on Tuesday he was open to move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv and described it as a sensible proposal.

Australia is considering recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving its embassy to Jerusalem, according to a statement from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"We're committed to a two-state solution, but frankly, it hasn't been going that well, not a lot of progress has been made, and you don't keep doing the same thing and expect different results", Morrison said Tuesday morning, speaking from Parliament House.

Australia's prime minister has suggested recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital ahead of a by-election that could lead to the collapse of his government without the support of Jewish voters.

However, given that one of Indonesia's foremost foreign policy positions is support for a Palestinian state, Mr Morrison's declaration in support of Jerusalem as Israel's capital has not gone down well in Jakarta. The idea was proposed to him by Dave Sharma, a member of his party and former ambassador to Israel.

He said, "No decision has been made in regarding the recognition of the capital or the movement of an embassy", but that Australia's "government is open-minded about this".

The Trump administration turned its back on decades of U.S. policy last December by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and in May, it moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv. Mr Joko has been pressing his government to conclude a free trade agreement with Australia, and has even proposed that Australia be allowed to join the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean).

Mr Morrison confirmed he had also ordered a review into Australia's involvement in the nuclear deal with Iran, again bringing Australian foreign policy closer to that of President Trump.

Indonesia is home to the world's largest Muslim population, with almost 90% of the country's citizens, around 225 million, adherents of the religion.

The two leaders also discussed strengthening bilateral relations, deepening defense ties and a prospective agreement to appoint military attaches to both embassies.

"We have agreed that we will send a letter to the foreign minister expressing our worries and our concern about such a statement", he said.

But the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported that an unnamed Indonesian official had said Jakarta had been taken by surprise by the announcement, which could harm trade negotiations between the two countries.

"And I was very pleased by the warm exchange I had yesterday with the President".

Ms Retno, top diplomat for the world's largest Muslim-majority country, appeared particularly upset that Australia's diplomatic initiative coincided with a visit to Jarkarta by Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki.

Worldwide consensus has been that Jerusalem's status should be settled in a peace deal and recognising it as a capital for either side would prejudice one party over the other.

If Australia does indeed relocate its embassy to Jerusalem, it will become the third country to recognize the city as the capital of Israel.



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