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US Jerusalem move dominates Macron-Netanyahu talks

French President Emmanuel Macron said he disapproves of the decision by the US to declare Jerusalem as Israel's capital.


French President Emmanuel Macron has criticised a US decision to call Jerusalem the capital of Israel, while urging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to end the construction of illegal settlements.

In a joint press conference after meeting Netanyahu in the French capital, Macron urged the Israeli leader to negotiate with the Palestinians.

"France remains convinced that the only solution in accordance to international law is to enable the establishment of two states living side by side in peace - and this can only happen through negotiations," he said on Sunday.

"I invite the prime minister to make courageous gestures regarding the Palestinians and to overcome the current deadlock."

Netanyahu's visit to Paris came four days after US President Donald Trump ignored widespread warnings by the international community as he recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital and announced plans to move his country's embassy to the city.

The unilateral move was sharply condemned by leaders across the world, including in Europe, and led to deadly clashes across the occupied Palestinian territories and major protests elsewhere. 

Commenting on Trump's decision, Macron expressed his deep dissaproval because "it contradicts international law".

He also called on Israel to "freeze settlement building" as a gesture of peace.

But Netanyahu said that Trump's recognition merely recognised realities on the ground, adding that Palestinians must accept Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Prime Minister Netanyahu once again said Jerusalem has always been the capital of the state of Israel.

READ MORE: Tense scenes as unrest over US Jerusalem move continues

"The sooner the Palestinians come to grips with this reality, the sooner we'll move towards peace," he said at the press conference.

"This is why I think President Trump's announcement was so historic and so important for peace," adding that there is a "serious effort under way" by the US administration "on the quest for peace".

Responding to Macron's calls for negotiations, Netanyahu said he has more than once reached out to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

European tour

Beyond the issue of Jerusalem, the two leaders discussed a series of other topics, including Iran's role in the Middle East.

Netanyahu called Iran "the main source of aggression in the region", saying it was building up its military capabilities in both Syria and Lebanon, and claimed that a number of Arab states were beginning to agree with this position.

"Many of the Arab countries now recognise that Israel is not their enemy, but their ally to fight the two main sources of terrorism in the region, namely Daesh [ISIL] and Iran."

During the press conference, Macron announced he will visit Israel in 2018.

After visiting Paris, Netanyahu will travel to Brussels, where he is scheduled to meet Federica Mogherini, the European Union's foreign policy chief. 

Just like Macron, Mogherini has been critical of the US decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem and recognise the city as the capital of Israel.

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