Exclusive: Trump denies US embassy to be moved to Jerusalem within a year

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump denied on Wednesday that the planned relocation of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem would take place within a year, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he expected the controversial move to happen by then.

Reversing decades of U.S. policy, Trump in early December recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and set in motion the process of moving the embassy from Tel Aviv, imperiling Middle East peace efforts and upsetting the Arab world and Western allies alike.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last month the embassy move was “probably no earlier than three years out, and that’s pretty ambitious,” a timeframe that administration officials have attributed to the logistics of finding and securing a site as well as arranging housing for diplomats.

Jerusalem is home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed in a move not recognized internationally, as the capital of their future state.

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Arabs, Muslims protest Trump's Jerusalem decision
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Arabs, Muslims protest Trump's Jerusalem decision
Demonstrators pray during a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, near the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Osman Orsal TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Palestinians react during a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
Palestinian demonstrators burn posters of the US president in Bethlehem's Manger Square in protest to him declaring Jerusalem as Israel's capital on December 6, 2017. Abbas said the United States can no longer play the role of peace broker after Donald Trump's decision on Wednesday to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital. / AFP PHOTO / Musa AL SHAER (Photo credit should read MUSA AL SHAER/AFP/Getty Images)
A Palestinian refugee family watches a televised broadcast of U.S. President Donald Trump delivering an address where he is expected to announce that the United States recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, at Al-Baqaa Palestinian refugee camp, near Amman, Jordan December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Palestinian refugee family watches a televised broadcast of U.S. President Donald Trump delivering an address where he is expected to announce that the United States recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, at Al-Baqaa Palestinian refugee camp, near Amman, Jordan December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Palestinian refugee family watches a televised broadcast of U.S. President Donald Trump delivering an address where he is expected to announce that the United States recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, at Al-Baqaa Palestinian refugee camp, near Amman, Jordan December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
A Palestinian refugee watches a televised broadcast of U.S. President Donald Trump delivering an address where he is expected to announce that the United States recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, at Al-Baqaa Palestinian refugee camp, near Amman, Jordan December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
A Palestinian refugee family watches a televised broadcast of U.S. President Donald Trump delivering an address where he is expected to announce that the United States recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, at Al-Baqaa Palestinian refugee camp, near Amman, Jordan December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
U.S. President Donald Trump and ?Vice President Mike Pence? arrive for Trump to deliver remarks recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel at the White House in Washington, U.S. December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Palestinians react during a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
Palestinians react during a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
Palestinians react during a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Palestinians prepare to burn a representation of an Israeli flag during a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
Hamas supporters stage a protest against the possible U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, in Gaza City , Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. President Donald Trump is forging ahead with plans to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital despite intense Arab, Muslim and European opposition to a move that would upend decades of U.S. policy and risk potentially violent protests. (Photo by Ezz al-Zanoun/NurPhoto(
Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh during a protest against the possible U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, in Gaza City , Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. President Donald Trump is forging ahead with plans to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital despite intense Arab, Muslim and European opposition to a move that would upend decades of U.S. policy and risk potentially violent protests. (Photo by Ezz al-Zanoun/NurPhoto(
Hamas supporters stage a protest against the possible U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, in Gaza City , Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. President Donald Trump is forging ahead with plans to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital despite intense Arab, Muslim and European opposition to a move that would upend decades of U.S. policy and risk potentially violent protests. (Photo by Ezz al-Zanoun/NurPhoto(
Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh during a protest against the possible U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, in Gaza City , Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. President Donald Trump is forging ahead with plans to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital despite intense Arab, Muslim and European opposition to a move that would upend decades of U.S. policy and risk potentially violent protests. (Photo by Ezz al-Zanoun/NurPhoto(
A woman holds a sign during a demonstration against the US and Israel at Fatih Mosque in Istanbul on December 6, 2017. Hundreds of people staged protests in Istanbul angrily denouncing the US president's move to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. / AFP PHOTO / YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Palestinian demonstrators stand on posters of the US president in Bethlehem's Manger Square in protest to him declaring Jerusalem as Israel's capital on December 6, 2017. Abbas said the United States can no longer play the role of peace broker after Donald Trump's decision on Wednesday to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital. / AFP PHOTO / Musa AL SHAER (Photo credit should read MUSA AL SHAER/AFP/Getty Images)
Palestinian demonstrators burn posters of the US president in Bethlehem's Manger Square in protest to him declaring Jerusalem as Israel's capital on December 6, 2017. Abbas said the United States can no longer play the role of peace broker after Donald Trump's decision on Wednesday to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital. / AFP PHOTO / Musa AL SHAER (Photo credit should read MUSA AL SHAER/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters wave Palestinian flags and chant slogans during a demonstration against the US and Israel in front of the US consulate in Istanbul on December 6, 2017. Hundreds of people staged a protest outside the US consulate in Istanbul angrily denouncing the US president's move to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Around 1,500 people gathered outside the well-protected compound close to the Bosphorus which was sealed off by police with barricades, an AFP correspondent said. / AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - DECEMBER 06: Protesters wave flags and shout slogans outside the U.S. Consulate on December 6, 2017 in Istanbul, Turkey. People gathered to protest after U.S President Donald Trump declared recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. President Trump went ahead with the announcement despite warnings from Middle East leaders and the Pope condemning the decision. The announcement which breaks decades of U.S. policy threatens to bring further instability to the region. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - DECEMBER 06: Protesters wave flags and shout slogans outside the U.S. Consulate on December 6, 2017 in Istanbul, Turkey. People gathered to protest after U.S President Donald Trump declared recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. President Trump went ahead with the announcement despite warnings from Middle East leaders and the Pope condemning the decision. The announcement which breaks decades of U.S. policy threatens to bring further instability to the region. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - DECEMBER 06: Protesters wave flags and shout slogans outside the U.S. Consulate on December 6, 2017 in Istanbul, Turkey. People gathered to protest after U.S President Donald Trump declared recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. President Trump went ahead with the announcement despite warnings from Middle East leaders and the Pope condemning the decision. The announcement which breaks decades of U.S. policy threatens to bring further instability to the region. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - DECEMBER 06: Protesters wave flags and shout slogans outside the U.S. Consulate on December 6, 2017 in Istanbul, Turkey. People gathered to protest after U.S President Donald Trump declared recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. President Trump went ahead with the announcement despite warnings from Middle East leaders and the Pope condemning the decision. The announcement which breaks decades of U.S. policy threatens to bring further instability to the region. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - DECEMBER 06: Protesters wave flags and shout slogans outside the U.S. Consulate on December 6, 2017 in Istanbul, Turkey. People gathered to protest after U.S President Donald Trump declared recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. President Trump went ahead with the announcement despite warnings from Middle East leaders and the Pope condemning the decision. The announcement which breaks decades of U.S. policy threatens to bring further instability to the region. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
GAZA CITY, GAZA - DECEMBER 6: Head of the Political Bureau of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh (4th L) attends a protest against US President Donald Trumps recognition of Jerusalem as Israels capital, in Gaza City, Gaza on December 6, 2017. (Photo by Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
GAZA CITY, GAZA - DECEMBER 6: Head of the Political Bureau of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh attends a protest against US President Donald Trumps recognition of Jerusalem as Israels capital, in Gaza City, Gaza on December 6, 2017. (Photo by Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Protesters chant slogans and hold a poster with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egypt's former president Mohamed Morsi and placards reading 'There is no you or me, there is Jerusalem- Killer Israel get out of Palestine' during a demonstration against the US and Israel at Fatih Mosque in Istanbul on December 6, 2017. Hundreds of people staged protests in Istanbul angrily denouncing the US president's move to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. / AFP PHOTO / YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
A protester burns an Israeli flag printed on a piece of paper during a demonstration against the US and Israel in front of the US consulate in Istanbul on December 6, 2017. Hundreds of people staged a protest outside the US consulate in Istanbul angrily denouncing the US president's move to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Around 1,500 people gathered outside the well-protected compound close to the Bosphorus which was sealed off by police with barricades, an AFP correspondent said. / AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters chant slogans and raise their fingers during a demonstration against the US and Israel in front of the US consulate in Istanbul on December 6, 2017. Hundreds of people staged a protest outside the US consulate in Istanbul angrily denouncing the US president's move to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Around 1,500 people gathered outside the well-protected compound close to the Bosphorus which was sealed off by police with barricades, an AFP correspondent said. / AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
A protester wearing a niqab waves a flag during a demonstration against the US and Israel in front of the US consulate in Istanbul on December 6, 2017. Hundreds of people staged a protest outside the US consulate in Istanbul angrily denouncing the US president's move to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Around 1,500 people gathered outside the well-protected compound close to the Bosphorus which was sealed off by police with barricades, an AFP correspondent said. / AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - DECEMBER 06: Protesters wave flags and shout slogans outside the U.S. Consulate on December 6, 2017 in Istanbul, Turkey. People gathered to protest after U.S President Donald Trump declared recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. President Trump went ahead with the announcement despite warnings from Middle East leaders and the Pope condemning the decision. The announcement which breaks decades of U.S. policy threatens to bring further instability to the region. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
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Netanyahu, according to Israeli reporters traveling with him on a trip to India, said on Wednesday: “My solid assessment is that it will go much faster than you think - within a year from now.”

Asked about Netanyahu’s comment, Trump told Reuters in an interview that was not the case. "By the end of the year? We’re talking about different scenarios - I mean obviously that would be on a temporary basis. We’re not really looking at that. That's no.“

Trump – whose decision on the embassy move fulfilled a campaign pledge - promised, however, that it would be a “a beautiful embassy but not one that costs $1.2 billion,” referring to what he says was the cost of the new U.S. embassy in London.

Trump last week canceled a trip to London to open the new diplomatic mission, blaming his White House predecessor Barack Obama for selling off the old one for "peanuts" in a bad deal.

He acknowledged that the embassy move in Britain was agreed under former President George W. Bush but said it was built under Obama and “came out tremendously over budget.”

(Reporting By Jeff Mason, Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton; Writing by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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