Singapore, MINA — Scott Morrison has told the Indonesian president that Australia will make a decision on relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by Christmas, and insists his government is motivated by wanting to see progress towards a two-state solution, The Guardian reported.
The fraught meeting with Joko Widodo kicked off Morrison’s program at the ASEAN summit in Singapore, and followed a warning from the Indonesian trade minister, Enggartiasto Lukita, that Jakarta will not sign off on a free-trade deal with Canberra if the Morrison government shifts the embassy.
Morrison flagged the embassy shift in late October, sparking an immediate diplomatic backlash in Jakarta that has put the trade deal at risk. Separately the defence minister, Christopher Pyne, has articulated a more nuanced position where there would be an Australian embassy in West Jerusalem and a separate diplomatic presence in East Jerusalem.
In the same week Morrison suggested Australia could follow Donald Trump’s policy, Pyne said: “I believe that we should consider whether it would assist to create the two-state solution in Israel and Palestine for there to be an Australian embassy in West Jerusalem and a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem and our embassy therefore in their state in East Jerusalem.”
Morrison has not articulated that stance publicly, although Pyne has said that is the proposal the Australian government is considering. It is unclear whether the position the defence minister telegraphed publicly has been conveyed to Jakarta in the context of aiding the two-state solution.
The Palestinians want to divide the city and make East Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian state.
The ASEAN summit is Morrison’s first opportunity to mingle with other world leaders since taking the Liberal leadership in August. Morrison on Wednesday evening was meeting with the New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, with Ardern expected to restate the country’s longstanding offer to resettle asylum seekers from Nauru.
The Australian prime minister was also due to meet the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang. Earlier in the day he met the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, with sugar subsidies a point of friction.
The Israel embassy row is now a significant political problem for Morrison, with the controversy sparking internal questions about his political judgment, and with the landmark trade deal now in the balance.
The prime minister also had to slap down an intervention from the Liberal backbencher and chair of parliament’s foreign affairs, defence and trade legislation committee, Eric Abetz. The senator declared if the Indonesians wanted to “dictate” Australian foreign policy, then perhaps Australia should rethink aid contributions. . (Tj/RS5/RS1)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)