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Australia-Indonesia trade deal 'on hold' until Jerusalem issue settles

Nov. 13, 2018 3:50 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 14, 2018 1:03 P.M.)
BETHELEHEM (Ma'an) -- A major trade deal between Australia and Indonesia was due to be signed in early December, however, the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, said on Monday that there is "no rush" to get it done.

According to an Australian news outlet, Morrison confirmed he will not sign the deal when he meets Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the East Asia Summit in Singapore and APEC in Papua New Guinea this week to discuss trade, regional security and counter terrorism.

Indonesia is currently troubled regarding the Australian PM's announcement about considering recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, with reports that "the deal is on hold until the issue is sorted out."

Sources reported that Morrison said that "The intention was the trade ministers would be able to deal with that by the end of the year, but there's no hurry. Australia doesn't conflate these issues."
In October, Morrison had announced that he is considering recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and transferring the embassy to the city; he described the move as a "sensible" proposal.

Within hours of Morrison's announcement, he had received criticism from Indonesia and Malaysia, both Muslim-majority countries; Indonesia had expressed "strong concern," while Malaysia said Australia could jeopardize its relations with Asian countries.

The fate of Jerusalem has been a focal point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades, with numerous tensions arising over Israeli threats regarding the status of non-Jewish religious sites in the city, and the "Judaization" of East Jerusalem through settlement construction and mass demolitions of Palestinian homes.

International consensus has been that Jerusalem's status should be settled in a peace deal and recognizing it as a capital for either side would prejudice one party over the other. If Australia went ahead with the move, it would join just the US and Guatemala, which also relocated their embassy this year.

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