Ukraine could soon recognize Jerusalem – the contested holy city claimed as the capital by both Israelis and Palestinians – as Israel’s “one and only capital,” Ukraine’s Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk told The Times of Israel.
"No foreign minister or ambassador can call Jerusalem anything but the capital of Israel," Korniychuk said on Dec. 16, during an event that marked 30 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Ukraine.
The ambassador added that he believes official recognition of Jerusalem from Kyiv is a matter of months, and the opening of Ukraine’s embassy branch there is possible. Ukraine’s embassy in Israel is currently located in Tel-Aviv, a coastal city just an hour away from Jerusalem.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid had previously urged Ukraine to open an embassy branch in Jerusalem, though didn’t see a need to move the entire embassy, diplomatic sources told Haaretz back in November.
So far, only the United States, Honduras, Guatemala and Kosovo have their embassies in Jerusalem.
Australia recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but hasn’t budged to move the embassy for fear of deteriorating relations with its Asian allies, like Indonesia, who side with the Palestinians.
The legal status of Jerusalem – a holy city for Jews, Christians and Muslims – is complicated. Control of Jerusalem is a key part of the decades-long struggle for dominance over the land which now makes Israel and Palestinian territories.
Both Israelis and Palestinians have deep religious and historic ties to the city, which is home to some of the world’s holiest sites – al-Aqsa mosque in Islam and Temple Mount in Judaism.
Following the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, Israel took control of West Jerusalem, while neighboring Jordan annexed East Jerusalem. Two decades later, Israel regained control of East Jerusalem during the Six-Day War in 1967, unified it with its western counterpart, and proclaimed it as Israel’s undivided capital.
After decades of conflict, the majority of world states still don’t have a solution for Jerusalem’s status.
The UN designates East Jerusalem as “occupied Palestinian territory,” and doesn’t recognize the 1967 annexation. Both the UN and the EU urge for the settlement of Jesuralem’s status via peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
No European country has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or moved its embassy there.
The International Court of Justice also stated in one of its rulings that East Jerusalem is illegally occupied.
When the United States moved its embassy to Jerusalem in 2017, it received heavy criticism from its international allies.
In reaction to the U.S. decision, the UN General Assembly passed an emergency session resolution with 128 votes, declaring that "any decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council.”
Ukraine was absent from that session.
During the Ukrainian Israeli Innovation Summit 2021 on Dec. 15, Korniychuk said that Ukraine and Israel have a strong mutual legal framework of over 40 agreements.
"Ukrainian-Israeli relations are not just friendly, but also family-like,” the ambassador said.