Pope Francis has used his Christmas message to call for a negotiated two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, hours after Guatemala announced that it was becoming the first country to follow President Donald Trump’s lead and recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Mr Trump’s December 6 declaration – overwhelmingly condemned at the United Nations general assembly last week – has sparked clashes that have left at least 12 Palestinians dead.
On Christmas Eve Jimmy Morales, the president of Guatemala, announced that his country was to follow the US lead and relocate it embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Guatemala and Israel have long had close ties, especially in security matters and Israeli arms sales to Guatemala. No other country has their embassy for Israel in Jerusalem, though the Czech Republic has said it is considering such a move.
Britain has said it has no plans to follow suit, and has condemned Mr Trump’s provocative move.
And Francis used his Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) address, four days after the UN vote, to call for peace in the Middle East.
“Let us pray that the will to resume dialogue may prevail between the parties and that a negotiated solution can finally be reached, one that would allow the peaceful coexistence of two states within mutually agreed and internationally recognised borders,” he said, referring to the Israelis and Palestinians.
“We see Jesus in the children of the Middle East who continue to suffer because of growing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.”
It was the second time that the pope has spoken out publicly about Jerusalem since Mr Trump’s decision, having previously called for the city’s “status quo” to be respected, lest new tensions in the Middle East further inflame world conflicts.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future independent state, whereas Israel has declared…