Arab League Chief Slams Australia's 'Biased' Recognition of West Jerusalem as Israeli Capital

Ahmed Abul Gheit calls on Australian government to 'correct its position and recognize the State of Palestine and its capital as East Jerusalem without delay'

FILE PHOTO: The new Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison attends a news conference in Canberra, Australia August 24, 2018
\ David Gray/ REUTERS

 Australia's recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel's capital "stirs dismay" and is "biased," the head of the Arab League said on Sunday.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Saturday that his country has formally recognized West Jerusalem as Israel's capital, but will not immediately move the embassy from Tel Aviv.

Morrison also committed to recognizing a future Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital once an enduring two-state solution has been reached.

Australia's move was welcomed by Israel while drawing a chorus of criticism elsewhere.

"Recognizing West Jerusalem as Israel's capital while ignoring recognition of East Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine shows glaring bias towards Israel," Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit said.

"The Australian position is incomplete. Therefore, it stirs our dismay," he said in the United Arab Emirates where he is attending a forum.

"I call on the Australian government to correct its position and recognize the State of Palestine and its capital as East Jerusalem without delay. Thus, we will consider its position balanced," the top Arab diplomat added.

Australia joins Russia, Panama, and the Czech Republic in recognizing West Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Israel's Foreign Ministry congratulated Australia and called the move "a step in the right direction" in a statement.

"Israel views the decision of the Australian government to open its security- economic office in Jerusalem as a step in the right direction. Israel congratulates the government of Australia for its stance regarding sanctions on Iran and also regarding its pro Israel position at the UN and against antisemitism," the statement read.

A senior Israeli official, however, said Israel is "disappointed that the Australian government decided to only recognize West Jerusalem as Israel's capital and that Australia has not withdrawn from the nuclear deal with Iran."

Last year, U.S. President Donald Trump recognized the whole of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moved the US embassy to the city.  

Trump's move on Jerusalem, which houses Islam's third holiest site, unleashed outrage across the Muslim and Arab worlds.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive issues in the decades-long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Israel claims Jerusalem as its "undivided capital," while the Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.