US President Donald Trump travelled to Jerusalem on Monday to seek ways to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace, but also used the visit to again lash out at Iran.
Trump’s visit is part of his first trip abroad as president and follows an initial stop in Saudi Arabia, where he urged Islamic leaders to confront extremism while also criticising Iran.
It also comes as he contends with a raft of problems back home, including a special counsel investigating whether his associates colluded with Russia.
Trump landed in Tel Aviv on Monday afternoon, welcomed by officials including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he walked along a red carpet ahead of a brief ceremony.
He later travelled by helicopter to Jerusalem and, in remarks at Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s residence, launched his latest salvo against Iran.
“The United States and Israel can declare with one voice that Iran must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon — never ever — and must cease its deadly funding, training and equipping of terrorists and militias,” Trump said.
“And it must cease immediately.”
While in Saudi Arabia, Trump accused Iran of fuelling “the fires of sectarian conflict and terror” while calling for its international isolation.
– Tight security –
Security was extremely tight for the Israeli leg of the visit, with police deploying some 10,000 officers.
The alleys and passageways of Jerusalem’s ancient Old City, which Trump visited later in the day, were essentially under lockdown.
Ahead of talks with Netanyahu, Trump was touring two iconic sites in Jerusalem, a city holy to Muslims, Christians and Jews.
The first was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built at the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. He could be seen entering the holy site along with first lady Melania Trump under heavy security.
Afterwards, he is expected to become the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray and located in east Jerusalem.
The Western Wall visit drew controversy before Trump even left Washington, when US officials declined to say whether it belonged to Israel.
The status of Jerusalem is ultra-sensitive and has been among the most difficult issues in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Israel occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967 in moves never recognised by the international community.
It later annexed east Jerusalem and claims the entire city as its capital. The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
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