Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 June 2019

Arab League warns Brazil’s Bolsonaro against Jerusalem embassy move

The body said recognising contested city as Israel’s would harm Arab ties

A picture taken from the Mount of Olives shows the Old City of Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock mosque in the centre, on December 7, 2018. AFP
A picture taken from the Mount of Olives shows the Old City of Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock mosque in the centre, on December 7, 2018. AFP

The Arab League has written a letter to Brazil’s right-wing President-elect Jair Bolsonaro to warn him against moving Brasilia’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The body said that any such move would harm the South American country’s ties with Arab allies, according to the text seen by Reuters.

Mr Bolsonaro comes into office on January 1 and has mooted relocating the diplomatic representation to the contested city after US President Donald Trump made the same move in May. His son Eduardo said after meeting Mr Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner last month that the move was not a case of "if, but of when".

Ambassadors from Arab nations are expected to meet in Brasilia on Tuesday to discuss the future Brazilian leader's plan.

The letter to Bolsonaro from the league's Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit and delivered to Brazil's foreign ministry said the decision on where to locate an embassy was the sovereign decision of any country.

"However, the situation of Israel is not normal, seeing that it is a country that has been occupying Palestinian territories by force – among them East Jerusalem," the letter said.

Moving the embassy to Jerusalem would be considered a violation of international law and the United National Security Council resolutions, Mr Aboul Gheit said.

Israel’s embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hailed Mr Bolsonaro for signalling that he will follow Mr Trump’s suit. The Israeli leader, who is facing a wave of corruption allegations at home, is to attend the Brazilian's inauguration ceremony because of the looming decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

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The US embassy move took place despite Arab protests. The decision angered Palestinian officials so much that they cut all public ties with Washington. Mr Trump has since enacted a series of decisions that Palestinian leaders say have sought to change the reality on the ground. He cut all funding to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, slashed aid to East Jerusalem hospitals that serve sick Palestinians and closed the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s mission in Washington.

Brazil is one of the world's top halal meat exporters and that trade could run into trouble if Mr Bolsonaro angers Arab nations by moving the embassy. That could hurt exports to key Middle Eastern markets for Brazilian beef and poultry producers BRF SA and JBS SA.

Halal meat is butchered and prepared as prescribed by Muslim law.

The meat exporters lobby has pressed the incoming president not to move the embassy, and he appeared to change his mind.

Updated: December 11, 2018 10:28 AM

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