Egypt’s Christian Leader Sides With Palestine, Refuses To Meet With Pence

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The head of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church has canceled a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence after the U.S. officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Reuters reports.

Pope Tawadros II, the leader of the Egyptian church, said in a statement that President Donald Trump “did not take into account the feelings of millions of Arab people” when he decided to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“The Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church declines to receive American Vice President Mike Pence,” the statement said, adding that the church would pray for “wisdom … to address all issues that impact peace for the people of the Middle East.”

The Coptic churches’ decision to not meet with Pence came hours after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas also said it would not meet with Pence when the vice president travels to Israel and Egypt later in December.

“The United States has crossed all the red lines with the Jerusalem decision,” Majdi al-Khalidi, an advisor to Abbas, told Agence France Presse. “There will be no meeting with the vice president of America in Palestine,” he said.

Trump officially recognized Jerusalem, which Palestinian groups claim Israel is unlawfully occupying, as Israel’s capitol Wednesday, inflaming tensions in the area.

After prayers Friday, hundreds of protesters gathered around the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, the holiest Jewish site in Jerusalem, to burn Israeli flags.

“The war is approaching, Al-Quds Arabiya,” the protestors said, using the Arabic name for Jerusalem, according to the Times of Israel.

“Let us die as martyrs — there is no place for the State of Israel,” the protestors shouted according to the Times.

Pence still intends to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and address Isreal’s legislature during the trip.

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