Russia Says It Would Recognize West Jerusalem as Israeli Capital in Deal With Palestinians

In a modest shift, Moscow goes beyond expressing support for East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state to affirm Israeli claims to the western part of the city

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow on March 9, 2017.
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow on March 9, 2017. Pavel Golovkin/AP

In an unusual move, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Thursday in which it said, for the first time, that in the event of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, West Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel.

The statement represents a modest shift in the Russian attitude toward the peace process. Previously, the Russians had stressed that East Jerusalem should be the capital of the Palestinian state in any future arrangement, without making any reference to the status of West Jerusalem. Russia does not officially recognize West Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and its embassy is located in Tel Aviv.

The new Russian position actually appeared in the context of Moscow's condemnation of the Israeli cabinet resolution to establish a new settlement to house settlers who were evacuated from the unauthorized outpost of Amona. The statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry said that Moscow is "deeply concerned about the situation in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict," including the complete absence of negotiations and the deterioration of the situation on the ground.

"The stalling of the Middle East peace process has created conditions for unilateral moves that undermine the potential for an internationally accepted solution to the Palestinian problem, under which two states – Israel and Palestine – could live in peace and security with each other and with their neighbours.

"We reaffirm our commitment to the UN-approved principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, which include the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state. At the same time, we must state that in this context we view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," the statement said.

The Russian statement went on to say that a solution to the outstanding issues between Israel and the Palestinians must be reached in direct talks between the parties.

Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon declined to comment on the Russian statement and said that Israeli officials are studying the issue.