Paraguay to move embassy in Israel back to Tel Aviv: foreign minister

Paraguay to move embassy in Israel back to Tel Aviv: foreign minister

Paraguay to move embassy in Israel back to Tel Aviv: foreign minister

The step by Paraguay - announced by its foreign minister on Wednesday - marked a reversal of a previous decision made in May by former President Horacio Cartes to follow the U.S. and Guatemala in establishing embassies in Israel's contested capital city.

Israel reacted furiously the decision and Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, immediately announced the closure of Israel's embassy in Paraguay. Cartes was replaced by Mario Abdo, also a member of the conservative Colorado party, last month.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry hailed the move as a "Palestinian diplomatic achievement".

"The government of the Republic of Paraguay considers it pertinent to re-establish the seat of the embassy in the State of Israel to the location previous to the communique dated 9 of May of 2018", Paraguay's Foreign Minister Luis Castiglioni said.

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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas celebrated as "courageous" the reversal, which will be a setback to the momentum Israel had hoped to build after the United States moved its embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds in May as part of President Donald Trump's so-called Middle East peace efforts.

Israel had hoped to create momentum for countries to both recognize Jerusalem as its capital and move their embassies here.

The Trump administration's decision to move the embassy flew in the face of that global consensus and it followed its recognition months earlier of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, another step the Palestinians fiercely opposed. Two days later, Guatemala opened its embassy in Jerusalem.

Except that Cartes was aware of the fact that the end of his reign was near and even expressed his hope that the embassy move be completed by August. "Only respecting worldwide law and United Nations resolutions will help to achieve a just and lasting peace".

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Netanyahu, who is also Israel's foreign minister, has attempted to persuade other countries to follow their lead.

Not to be outdone, Paraguay announced on May 21 that it would be moving its embassy to Jerusalem.

Only minutes after the shocking announcement, in a tit-for-tat move, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the Foreign Ministry to shutter its embassy in Paraguay's capital Asunción and recalled ambassador Ze'ev Harel for consultation.

"Israel views with utmost gravity the extraordinary decision by Paraguay, which will cloud bilateral relations", Netanyahu said in a statement.

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Mr Benitez, whose father is of Lebanese descent, took the decision to return the embassy to Tel Aviv "to contribute to the intensification of regional and global diplomatic efforts that aim to achieve a broad, just and durable peace in the Middle East".

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