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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Guatemala opens Jerusalem embassy after Trump move

The Latin American country is the first to follow the US

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales speaks during the inauguration ceremony of Guatemala's embassy in Jerusalem on May 16, 2018. Ronen Zvulun / AFP
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales speaks during the inauguration ceremony of Guatemala's embassy in Jerusalem on May 16, 2018. Ronen Zvulun / AFP

Guatemala inaugurated its Israel embassy in Jerusalem on Wednesday, becoming the first country to follow in the footsteps of the United States' deeply controversial move.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales were among officials attending an inauguration ceremony at the new embassy at an office park in the disputed city at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The US and Guatemalan moves break with decades of international consensus.

Mr Netanyahu profusely praised the Central American nation for making the move and noted it came only two days after the United States opened its embassy in Jerusalem.

The Israeli premier said he would visit Guatemala on his next visit to Latin America.

Prior to 1980, Guatemala and a dozen other countries maintained embassies in Jerusalem. Israels passage in June 1980 of a law proclaiming Jerusalem its "indivisible and eternal capital" led to a UN Security Council resolution calling on Guatemala and several other countries to move their embassies to Tel Aviv.

The US embassy move on Monday was accompanied by mass protests and clashes along the Gaza border that saw Israeli forces kill 60 Palestinians.

Israel has faced international criticism over its use of live fire, but says its actions are necessary to defend the border and stop mass infiltrations from the Palestinian enclave, which is run by Islamist movement Hamas.

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Mr Trump's move reversed decades of US policy, upsetting the Arab world and Western allies.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest obstacles to forging a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, who with broad international backing want East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, as their capital.

Israel regards all of the city, including the eastern sector it annexed after the 1967 conflict, as its capital. The Trump administration has said the city's final borders should be decided by the parties.

The international community does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the entire city and says its final status should be set in peace negotiations.

Palestinian leaders said by relocating the embassy the United States had created incitement and instability in the region and abrogated its role as a peace mediator.

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