WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Wednesday that the State Department will "immediately" act on President Donald Trump's order and start the preparations to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Earlier on Wednesday, Trump said in a televised speech that he officially recognizes Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and instructs the State Department to relocate the U.S. embassy to the city.

Tillerson, who is on a Europe visit, said in a statement that the United States has consulted with "many friends, partners and allies" ahead of Trump's decision.

Though hailed by Israel, Trump's announcement immediately drew strong opposition and wide criticism from Arab and European countries that such a move would inflame tensions and fuel violence in the Middle East.

Tillerson said that the United States had taken measures to protect Americans in the region.

"The safety of Americans is the State Department's highest priority, and in concert with other federal agencies, we've implemented robust security plans to protect the safety of Americans in affected regions," he said.

Trump's announcement marked a dramatic departure from his predecessors' foreign policy.

Although the U.S. Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 which required the relocation of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, former U.S. presidents, including George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, consistently renewed a presidential waiver to delay the relocation out of consideration for national security interests.

The status of Jerusalem, revered by Muslims as the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest site by Jews, lies at the core of the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.

So far, the international community does not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and no foreign countries base their embassies in the city.