CAIRO - Arab foreign ministers kicked off an emergency meeting Saturday in the Egyptian capital with scathing criticism of US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, a move they agreed has robbed Washington of its credentials as an honest broker in Mideast peace.
The Arab League meeting, which brings together foreign ministers from member-states, is taking place as protests continued for three consecutive days in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In Cairo, the head of Egypt's largest Christian church announced Saturday he would not meet US Vice President Mike Pence when he visits Cairo on December 20, mirroring a decision made Friday by the country's top Muslim cleric.
Hundreds of worshippers protested Trump's decision after Friday prayers at Al-Azhar mosque, but security forces prevented them from marching to the city center.
Trump's announcement on Jerusalem, and his intention to move the US Embassy there, triggered denunciations from around the world, with even close allies suggesting he had needlessly stirred more conflict in an already volatile region.
The city's status lies at the core of the Israeli-Palestinians conflict, and Trump's move was widely perceived as siding with Israel. Even small crises over Jerusalem's status and that of the holy sites in its ancient Old City have sparked deadly bloodshed in the past.
Addressing the Cairo meeting, both Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul-Gheit and Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki called on world nations to recognize the State of Palestine with east Jerusalem as its capital in response to Trump's decision.
Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, the league chief, said Trump's decision "condemned" the country that took it and the administration that passed it. It also raised a question mark over Washington's role as a peace mediator, not just in the Middle East but in the entire world.
"The decision amounts to the legalization of occupation," said Aboul-Gheit.
Al-Maliki called on the league to instruct its envoys in the United Nations to submit a draft resolution to the US Security Council condemning Trump's decision.
Trump's decision, he said, "betrays its hostility and bias against the Palestinian people."
Lebanon's Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said Arab nations should consider imposing economic sanctions against the United States to prevent it moving its embassy to Jerusalem.
"Pre-emptive measures (must be) taken against the decision ... beginning with diplomatic measures, then political, then economic and financial sanctions," Bassil said.
Reuters contributed to this report.