The decision by United States President Donald Trump to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and to recognise the city as its capital is an “obstacle to a just and lasting peace” in the region, the Swiss foreign ministry said on Thursday.
The Swiss reaction, which was communicated directly to the US embassy in Bern on Thursday morning, follows much of the international community in condemning a move widely seen as destabilising to peacebuilding efforts between Israelis and Palestinians.
“Switzerland considers that, in accordance with United Nations Security Council resolution 478, any solution to the conflict in the Middle East must be based on a comprehensive and negotiated agreement on the final status of Jerusalem,” the foreign ministry wrote in a statementexternal link.
It also reiterated Swiss backing for a negotiated two-state solution to the decades-old conflict, in which Jerusalem as a disputed city plays a strategic and symbolic role.
The international community does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the whole of the city. Israel considers the city as its eternal and indivisible capital. Palestinians, however, want the capital of their independent state to be in the city’s eastern sector, which Israel annexed after the 1967 Middle East war.
Switzerland, in accordance with UN resolutions, does not recognise the authority of Israel over territories captured since 1967, which includes part of the city. No other country has an embassy in Jerusalem. Switzerland clearly stated that it would maintain its embassy in Tel Aviv.
Host of reactions
President Trump’s recognition on Wednesday of Jerusalem’s status as Israeli capital reversed decades of US policy in the region and has led to condemnation and heightened tensions in Gaza and the West Bank. The Islamist group Hamas urged Palestinians on Thursday to abandon peace efforts and launch a new uprising against Israel in response.
On Wednesday, the Swiss-Palestine Society condemned the US decision, saying it was “tantamount to a definitive recognition of an Israeli annexation of Jerusalem”. Moving the US embassy there would violate UN resolutions and contravene international law, it said.
This reaction echoed that of various international actors, including the EU, whose foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that “the aspirations of both parties must be fulfilled and a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states.”
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday many countries would follow the US move in recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital and contacts were underway.
For her part, the President of the Israeli-Swiss Association, Corina Eichenberger-Walther, said that Switzerland had no mandate for neutral mediation in the current context, and thus there is no need for hectic activism right now.
The decision by the US president was long-awaited, and does not affect either Swiss-Israeli relations nor the possibility of a two-state solution, she told the Basler Zeitung in an interview on Thursday.
The US plan to open an embassy in Jerusalem could take three to four years. The US embassy is currently in Tel Aviv, Israel's economic hub, as are those of other countries.
swissinfo.ch and agencies/dos