Palestinians turn to Putin for help against US embassy move

Children hold up protest signs

RAMALLAH - Palestinians on Friday stepped up their campaign to prevent President-elect Donald Trump from carrying out his pledge to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas asked his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for help, while the Grand Mufti told worshippers the move would constitute an assault against Muslims worldwide.
The Palestinians consider such as move as recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, warning it would inflame tensions in the Middle East and possibly sink what remains of peace efforts.
In his Friday sermon at Al-Aqsa mosque in annexed east Jerusalem's Old City, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein warned that believers around the world would not accept such a move.
"The pledge to move the embassy is not just an assault against Palestinians but against Arabs and Muslims, who will not remain silent," he said.
"The transfer of the embassy violates international charters and norms which recognise Jerusalem as an occupied city," Hussein said in his sermon, without naming Trump.
Palestinian leaders had called for the weekly Friday prayers at mosques across the Middle East this week to protest Trump's campaign pledge.
In Moscow, top Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said he had passed on a request of help from Abbas to Putin.
"The letter asks President Putin to do what he can about the information we have that President-elect Donald Trump will move the embassy to Jerusalem, which for us is a red line and dangerous," he said after meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Abbas has also written to Trump urging him not to move the embassy.
Previous US presidents, including George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, reneged on election commitments to move the embassy to Jerusalem.
The Palestinians regard east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state of their own, while Israel proclaims the entire city as its capital.
The United States and most UN member states do not recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and the city's status is one of the thorniest issues of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 1967. It later annexed the city's Arab eastern sector, in a move never recognised by the international community.
Last month, Erekat warned of regional turmoil if Trump were to move the embassy, noting however he "didn't think they will do it".
On Tuesday, senior official Mohammad Shtayyeh said the Palestinian leadership had been informed by diplomatic contacts that Trump could call for the move in his inauguration speech on January 20.
The Palestinians have added the issue to the agenda of a meeting of foreign ministers from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation on January 19 in Malaysia, he added.