Paraguay moving embassy back to Tel Aviv; Israel shuts mission in Asuncion

Geraldine Edwards
September 7, 2018

Israel closed its embassy in Paraguay following an announcement by the South American country that it was relocating its embassy back to Tel Aviv four months after moving to Jerusalem.

Paraguay's foreign minister called Israel's reaction "disproportionate", while President Abdo defended his decision as part of an effort to support "broad, lasting and just peace" among Israelis and Palestinians.

Paraguay's former president Horacio Cartes traveled to Jerusalem to inaugurate the embassy in May.

Maliki hailed Paraguay's change of mind as "a new Palestinian diplomatic achievement".

"Israel views with utmost gravity the extraordinary decision by Paraguay, which will cloud bilateral relations", the Prime Minister's Office stated.

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The Palestinian Authority issued a gleeful statement on Wednesday, saying that "this decision was in line with worldwide resolutions and was the result of the wise and vigorous Palestinian diplomatic efforts to explain the dangers of the transfer of embassies to Jerusalem on the peace process in the Middle East and the establishment of the independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital".

The statement said Malki "expresses his appreciation and gratitude to the Paraguayan president and his foreign minister for moving the embassy back and for their commitment to worldwide law". Two days later, Guatemala opened its embassy in Jerusalem.

Palestinian leaders see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and said Trump's move disqualifies Washington as a peace mediator.

In line with most of Latin America, Paraguay was one of the 33 countries that voted in favor - compared to just 13 against and 10 abstentions - of the 1947 United Nations two-state partition plan for what was until then British Mandate Palestine.

Mr Al Maliki had pushed Mr Benitez to return his country's embassy to Tel Aviv, the Palestinian foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

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The Palestinian Authority's Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah also thanked Paraguay for its decision. "Only respecting global law and United Nations resolutions will help to achieve a just and lasting peace", he added.

Previous US presidents, as well as almost every other country, refrained from opening embassies in Jerusalem, saying the city's final status should first be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

"One of the most complex components of the conflict is the status of Jerusalem, the statement continued, "and Paraguay "considers that it has to be addressed through negotiation by the concerned parties, within the framework of the relevant worldwide organizations decisions".

It can not be a coincidence that as Paraguay announces this decision, the Palestinian Authority celebrates and declares it will open an "embassy" in Asunción".

"Paraguay is a country of principles", Abdo, who took office last month, said on Twitter.

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