Trump's Jerusalem Gambit Prompts Opposition From Armenia, Concern From Georgia

The Armenian flag outside an Armenian restaurant in Jerusalem's old city. Armenia has opposed the United States decision to formally recognize the city as Israel's capital. (photo: Wikimedia Commons, Djampa)

United States President Donald Trump’s decision to defy international law and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has provoked opposition from Armenia, which has deep historic and religious ties to the holy city.

The Armenian Apostolic Church controls part of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, on the site where Jesus is supposed to have been crucified and buried. Jerusalem also is home to the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem’s old city, which dates back to the fourth century A.D., when Armenia adopted Christianity as a national religion. About 790 Armenians live there, in one of the oldest surviving Armenian diaspora communities

Following Trump's announcement, His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, warned that the decision may result in instability in the region. Aram I also emphasized the need to respect “the legitimate rights of Palestinians” and to preserve the rights of the three monotheistic religions in Jerusalem. Since 1967, the UN has recognized the eastern part of Jerusalem as territory illegally occupied by Israel, but Israel has long sought international recognition of Jerusalem as its capital.

The Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem (an independent, self-governing Christian patriarchate dating to the Apostolic Age) issued a similar statement. Both Churches signed a written statement issued by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem calling for President Trump to reconsider the decision and “continue recognizing the present international status of Jerusalem.”

“Any sudden changes would cause irreparable harm… We are certain that such steps will yield increased hatred, conflict, violence and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, moving us farther from the goal of unity and deeper toward destructive division,” part of the statement read.

Armenia's secular officials weighed in as well: Minster of Foreign Affairs Eduard Nalbandyan issued a statement calling for the preservation of peace and the need to protect Jerusalem’s historic Armenian community.

Israel has close ties with Armenia's rival, Azerbaijan, but in recent years Yerevan has been trying to woo Israel away. Nevertheless, neither side appeared to try to score points with Israel; Azerbaijan also issued a statement opposing Trump's move.

Trump's announcement prompted a measured response from Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which usually closely follows Washington's lead.

“We have looked carefully at the statement made by the President of our strategic partner, the United States of America, regarding Jerusalem,” and “are closely monitoring the developments as this issue is being widely discussed internationally, including at the United Nations” the Ministry said in a statement issued December 7.

“Georgia supports the efforts of the international community aimed at the peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which should be achieved through an agreement based on dialogue,” it read.

The statement was issued after Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili rejected an appeal published on the personal Facebook page of MP Shota Shalelshvili urging Georgia to support President Trump’s position. Shalelshvili was later summoned for a “private meeting” with Georgia’s State Security Service.

According to Kvirikashvili, Georgia will state its position on “the basis of its national interests, considering the international situation and the threats that exist in the region.”

Trump's Jerusalem Gambit Prompts Opposition From Armenia, Concern From Georgia

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