An Israeli flag flies near the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives overlooking the old city of Jerusalem, on Tuesday. Photo: IC
Global concern mounted on Wednesday ahead of an announcement by US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, with a list of countries warning of the potential for dangerous fallout.
The move by Trump, set to come in a speech later Wednesday, would upend decades of careful US policy and ignore dire warnings of a historic misstep that could trigger a surge of violence in the Middle East.
China expressed concern on Wednesday about Trump's pending announcement, saying the move could trigger new rivalry.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing that the status of Jerusalem was a complicated and sensitive issue and China worried about "any potential flare-up of regional tensions."
A senior administration official said Trump would make the announcement at 1:00 pm from the White House.
"He will say that the US government recognizes that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel," a senior administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"He views this as a recognition of reality, both historic reality and modern reality."
Plunging further into a decades-long dispute over a city considered holy by Jews, Muslims and Christians, Trump was also expected to order planning to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
"It will take some time to find a site, to address security concerns, design a new facility, fund a new facility and build it," the official said.
"It will be a matter of some years, it won't be months, it's going to take time."
The status of Jerusalem is a critical issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with both sides claiming the city as their capital.
In a frantic series of calls, the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the European Union, France, Germany and Turkey all warned Trump against the move.
Anticipating protests, US government officials and their families have been ordered to avoid Jerusalem's Old City and the West Bank.
Further warnings from world leaders came on Wednesday.
"I cannot silence my deep concern over the situation that has emerged in recent days," Pope Francis said.
"Jerusalem is a unique city, sacred for Jews, Christians and Muslims," he said, a day after speaking by phone with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
The pontiff added that maintaining Jerusalem's status quo was important "in order to avoid adding new elements of tension to an already volatile world that is wracked by so many cruel conflicts."
British foreign minister Boris Johnson, speaking as he arrived for a NATO meeting in Brussels, said "we view the reports that we have heard with concern, because we think that Jerusalem obviously should be part of the final settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, a negotiated settlement." Turkey said it risked igniting a "fire" in the Middle East.