Netanyahu Thanks Australian PM for Consideration of Jerusalem Recognition, Embassy Move

Australia's Treasurer Scott Morrison attends a press conference in Parliament House in Canberra

The fate of the Indonesia-Australia pact came under scrutiny after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Tuesday that he was "open-minded" to proposals to formally recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

If Australia does proceed, it will be following the U.S. which earlier this year moved its embassy, effectively recognising the holy city of Jerusalem as the "true" capital of Israel. "Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked him", a statement from the Netanyahu's office said.

While Australia said it would consider moving its mission from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem, Russia vowed to refrain from such a move before a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is signed.

Morrison told reporters that he would make an announcement on Tuesday regarding Jerusalem al-Quds and Australia's "No" vote for a United Nations resolution allowing Palestine to chair the Group of 77.

If Australia does indeed relocate its embassy to Jerusalem, it will become the third country to recognize the city as the capital of Israel.

The Prime Minister denied the looming by-election in Wentworth, which has a large Jewish community, had any impact on his decision on Australia's shift in approach to Middle East policy, or that his evangelical religious beliefs - a key factor in the shift in United States policy in the region - played any role.

Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said the agreement was "on track for finalisation this year".

The opposition center-left Labor Party said the announcement was a desperate attempt to win the by-election in the Wentworth electorate.

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The by-election is in the Sydney harbourside seat of Wentworth vacated by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who was ousted in a party-room coup by members of Morrison's Liberal party, the senior partner in a Liberal-National coalition, in August.

In Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, who was attending solidarity events in the country, said Morrison's statement was "very sad news" that would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions. We hope the Federal government will ultimately move its embassy to Jerusalem. Palestinians also lay claim to Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

"This is of great importance to remind them that this does not go with worldwide law, with global relations... and puts Australia in contradiction to the rest of the world when it comes to Jerusalem and the status of Jerusalem", he said.

Morrison, an evangelical Christian, denied the potential embassy switch was motivated by domestic politics, his religious beliefs, or that Australia's main strategic ally, the USA, had influenced the decision.

"What I am doing today is recognising what is a real concern in the Jewish community in Australia - whether it is about the Iran nuclear deal, which is an item of great concern to that community, or it is on this broader question of the two state solution and how with go about achieving it".

"Indonesia is very, very important for us", said Mr Netanyahu at the International Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem, adding: "Indonesia is over 200 million people".

Among other things, the agreement will make it easier for Australian universities and health providers to set up operations in Indonesia, and boost trade in key areas such as cattle.

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