U.S. to convert existing Jerusalem facility into embassy for 2019 opening

Announcing the controversial move last month, US President Donald Trump said he planned on setting forth architects and planners to design a new facility.

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January 19, 2018 03:13
1 minute read.
U.S. to convert existing Jerusalem facility into embassy for 2019 opening

A general view of Jerusalem's old city shows the Dome of the Rock in the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, October 25, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)

 
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WASHINGTON – The Trump administration may retrofit an existing facility in Jerusalem into an embassy with the goal of moving its staff there from Tel Aviv in 2019, US officials said on Thursday.

The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal quoted US officials on record, who said the State Department plans to reconfigure an existing consular facility that the US has used in the Arnona neighborhood in west Jerusalem since 1948.

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Announcing the embassy move last month, US President Donald Trump said he planned to commission architects and planners to design a new facility. And his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has told reporters that it would take at least three years to move the embassy to Jerusalem.

But Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is leading the administration’s peace push, have since favored an expedited timetable, the Times reported. Tillerson continues to prefer a longer time frame.

“The secretary’s primary focus is on security,” said Steve Goldstein, undersecretary of state for diplomacy and public affairs, according to the Journal report. “We will not be moving to a new facility.”

The US building is located next to the Green Line, the armistice line with Jordan before the 1967 war.

“We are going to retrofit a building” for a 2019 opening, Goldstein continued. “There is no plan for anything temporary.”

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The Palestinian Authority has ceased formal communication with the Trump administration since the Jerusalem decision.

In a conference call with reporters on Syria on Friday, a senior administration official clarified that no final decision had been made with respect to the embassy move, and noted that the construction of a new diplomatic facility could take six years or more, regardless of its location anywhere in the world.

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