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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Paraguay follows Trump and moves embassy to Jerusalem

The country is only the second to follow the US decision

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin embraces Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes upon his arrival for a meeting at his residence in Jerusalem, ahead of the dedication ceremony of the embassy of Paraguay in Jerusalem, May 21, 2018. Ronen Zvulun / Reuters
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin embraces Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes upon his arrival for a meeting at his residence in Jerusalem, ahead of the dedication ceremony of the embassy of Paraguay in Jerusalem, May 21, 2018. Ronen Zvulun / Reuters

Paraguay opened its Israel embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, the second country to follow the United States in making the politically sensitive move from Tel Aviv.

Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the inauguration ceremony. The United States relocated its embassy to Jerusalem a week ago, drawing Palestinian anger, and was followed by Guatemala on Wednesday.

Israel's Foreign Ministry called the moves a sign of the "extraordinary times".

The move has received a mixed response at home in Paraguay where Mr Cartes is set to be replaced by president-elect Mario Abdo Benitez in less than two months. Mr Benitez said he had not been consulted about the move.

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Executive Committee, called on Paraguay to reverse course and change its decision.

“Paraguay has conspired with Israel, the United States and Guatemala to entrench the military occupation and to seal the fate of occupied Jerusalem,” Ms Ashrawi said.

“We call on Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes to retract his decision and take the necessary steps to hold Israel accountable for its flagrant violations of human rights and crimes against humanity”.

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Israel claims the holy site to be its undivided capital. But Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of any future state, alongside the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel captured the territory in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

East Jerusalem is host to holy sites revered by both Jews and Muslims, particularly the Noble Sanctuary, or Haram Al Sharif, that Jews also refer to as the Temple Mount.

The international consensus, which US President Donald Trump broke with by moving the embassy, is that the status of the city should be negotiated through bilateral negotiations.

Most countries keep their embassies in Tel Aviv and have rejected the idea of relocating their diplomatic missions away from the city unilaterally.

The other countries that have expressed an interest in moving their missions to Jerusalem include Honduras, Czech Republic and Romania.

At the US embassy inauguration last week, Mr Trump said the move had been a long time coming. But just miles away in Gaza, tens of thousands of Palestinian protesters rallied against the move and conditions in the enclave. Israeli forces shot 60 people dead, including several children, sparking international outrage.

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