Pope Tawadros II, Egypt’s Coptic leader, said he will not meet with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence when the latter visits Cairo this month, due to Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
In a statement released Saturday, the Coptic Church said that it “declines to receive American Vice President Mike Pence,” and added that the U.S. decision to recognize the Jerusalem capital as Israel came “at an unsuitable time and without consideration for the feelings of millions of Arab people,” reported Times of Israel.
The church added it would pray for “wisdom and to address all issues that impact peace for the people of the Middle East.”
The Egyptian Coptic Church is the largest religious minority group in the region. It makes up about 10 percent of the country’s 93 million people.
The Coptic pope’s decision was issued a day after Egypt’s top Muslim cleric Ahmed al-Tayeb, the head of Al-Azhar, also said he would not meet with Pence. Similarly, the office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that the Palestinian leader also will not meet with Pence when he visits the West Bank this month.
Majdi Khaldi, Abbas’s diplomatic leader, said that the United States “has crossed red lines” after it recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Last week President Trump defied worldwide warnings and followed through with his commitment to recognize the Israeli capital as Jerusalem, drawing praise across Israeli’s political spectrum but angering much of the Arabs in the Middle East and around the world.
“The president believes this is a recognition of reality,” said a White House official, according to The Christian Post. “We’re going forward on the basis of a truth that is undeniable. It’s just a fact.”
Over the centuries, Jerusalem has been fought over for possession by various groups and nations. It contains numerous sacred sites claimed by Jews and Muslims, and is the place where Jesus Christ was crucified and resurrected.
In 1948, British rule ended, leading to a Jordanian invasion of the Old City which, in turn was captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war. In 1980, Israel publicly declared Jerusalem to be a “complete and united” city and capital of its country, according to The Christian Post. Arab countries protested across the region.
Palestinians believe that Jerusalem is their capital. After Trump delivered his announcement last week, Palestinians reacted angrily. Abbas called Trump’s decision “reprehensible” and a “deliberate undermining of all peace efforts,” warning that the move had ended Washington’s role as the key sponsor for Israel-Palestinian peace talks.
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