Israel Enraged As Paraguay Says Embassy to Leave Jerusalem

Thursday, 6 September, 2018 - 14:15
Beirut- Asharq Al-Awsat

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the closure of Israel's embassy in Paraguay, his office said, after the South American country announced Wednesday it was moving its mission back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem.

"The prime minister has asked the foreign ministry to close the Israeli embassy in Paraguay," the statement said, adding that Paraguay's decision had cast a shadow on relations between the two countries.

Paraguay's announcement that it was moving the embassy back to Tel Aviv came little more than three months after it had transferred it to Jerusalem following a similar move by Washington.

Palestinian authorities reacted by deciding to "immediately" open an embassy in Paraguay's capital Asuncion, Foreign Affairs Minister Riyad al-Maliki said, according to the official news agency Wafa.

Paraguay's new President Mario Abdo Benitez, who took office in mid-August, decided to move back the embassy "to contribute to the intensification of regional and international diplomatic efforts that aim to achieve a broad, just and durable peace in the Middle East," his government said.

"Israel views with utmost gravity the extraordinary decision by Paraguay, which will cloud bilateral relations," Netanyahu's office retorted on Twitter.

The original decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv was taken by Abdo Benitez's predecessor Horacio Cartes shortly after President Donald Trump had announced the United States would relocate its own embassy to Jerusalem.

Cartes even joined Netanyahu in the new embassy's opening ceremony in Jerusalem in May.

Abdo Benitez was already president-elect at that point and had questioned the decision, complaining that he had not been consulted.

Announcing the move, his government said it considered the return to Tel Aviv "appropriate".

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