World News

U.S. Embassy move can be done in 'two minutes': Jerusalem mayor

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel’s mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat said on Tuesday that moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the holy city can take “two minutes”.

FILE PHOTO - Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, speaks during his interview with Reuters in his office at the Jerusalem Municipality April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Senior U.S. officials have said President Donald Trump is likely on Wednesday to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital while delaying relocating the embassy from Tel Aviv for another six months, though he is expected to order his aides to begin planning such a move immediately.

The officials said, however, that no final decisions have been made as an outcry grew across the Middle East and among world powers against any unilateral U.S. decision on Jerusalem.

Barkat said the United States would only have to convert one of its existing assets in the city, such as its consulate located in West Jerusalem.

“They just take the symbol of the consulate and switch it to the embassy symbol - two American Marines can do it in two minutes, and give the ambassador David Friedman a space to sit in,” Barkat told Israel Radio.

“The implementation of this decision is immediate and then later slowly start moving the employees in a more structured manner to begin providing services in Jerusalem,” Barkat said.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the major stumbling blocks in decades of on-and-off Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. Israel considers all of the city its indivisible, eternal capital. Jerusalem is home to sites holy to Islam, Judaism and Christianity

Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War and later annexed it, a move not recognized internationally.

U.S. endorsement of Israel’s claim to all of Jerusalem as its capital would break with decades of U.S. policy that the city’s status must be decided in negotiations with the Palestinians.

Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Angus MacSwan