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Egypt: Coptic pope cancels Pence meeting over Jerusalem

News - Middle East

Move by Pope Tawadros II comes after Palestinian leaders say Trump's deputy is not welcome in occupied territories.

Pope Tawadros II

The leader of Egypt's Coptic Church has cancelled an upcoming meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence, protesting against Washington's move to declare Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The move by Pope Tawadros II on Saturday came a day after Palestinian leaders also said that Pence, who is scheduled to visit the region later this month, was not welcome in the occupied territories.

On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump formally recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and said he would start the process of moving its embassy there from Tel Aviv.

The controversial decision sparked anger and protests throughout the occupied Palestinian territories and a number of Muslim countries. It also drew widespread condemnation from world leaders.

In a statement, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt said it "excused itself from hosting" Pence when he visits the Egyptian capital of Cairo on December 20.

It said Trump's decision "did not take into account the feelings of millions of Arab people".

On Friday, the grand imam of Cairo's Al-Azhar Mosque also said that he would not meet Pence, according to Egyptian media.

"How can I sit with those who granted what they do not own to those who do not deserve it?" said Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb.

During his trip to the region, Pence was expected to also visit Israel with a stop in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.

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