Published: Sun, September 09, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Pence Pushed Paraguay to Keep Embassy in Jerusalem

Pence Pushed Paraguay to Keep Embassy in Jerusalem

Paraguay said it made the move because it wanted to intensify "regional diplomatic efforts to achieve a broad, fair and lasting peace in the Middle East".

Abdo Benitez, who promised to review the outgoing president's decision upon taking office in August, ultimately chose to reverse it and return his country's embassy to the Tel Aviv area in a move immediately celebrated by Palestinians and their leadership.

His predecessor, Horacio Cartes, attended a ceremony in Jerusalem on May 21 to open the new embassy, in the presence of Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister.

Paraguay's decision came as a major blow to Netanyahu's drive for global recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital; Paraguay was one of two countries to move its embassy following the USA decision to recognize the city as Israel's capital and move its own embassy in May.

Palestinian Authority officials on Thursday praised Paraguay's decision. "The reaction of closing the embassy was a little exaggerated and we urge authorities to reconsider it", Abdo Benitez said at a news conference in Itapua, 273 miles (440 kilometers) south of Asuncion.

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"This courageous move by the Paraguay government is an example for all countries in facing Israeli greed and attempts by the American administration to impose it on the world when it moved its embassy to Jerusalem in the so-called deal of the century", PA President Mahmoud Abbas said.

Mr Netanyahu's office said: "Israel views very seriously Paraguay's exceptional decision, which will strain relations between the countries".

The Palestinians aspire to have East Jerusalem as the capital of the future state they hope to establish in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. "Opening the Paraguayan Embassy in Jerusalem was indicative of that support". Israel closed its embassy in Paraguay and recalled its ambassador. The announcement angered Israel has triggered a diplomatic rift between the two countries.

In May, Paraguay joined a tiny list of countries that opted to follow US' suit by moving their embassies in wake of Donald Trump's recognition of the holy city as the capital of the Jewish state. "One of the most complex components of the conflict [between Israel and the Palestinians] is the status of Jerusalem", Castiglioni said, and Paraguay believes it should be negotiated between the parties involved - a position still held by most nations, according to The Associated Press.

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