Paraguay to Move Embassy Back to Tel Aviv From Jerusalem; Israel Retaliates - Shuts Embassy

Israel to close embassy, recall ambassador for consultations ■ Palestinians say they pushed Paraguay to relocate embassy ■ Paraguay was third country to move its embassy, following U.S. and Guatemala

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, shakes hands with Paraguay's President Horacio Cartes during their meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, Monday, May 21, 2018. Paraguay opened its new embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, following in the footsteps of the United States and Guatemala.
Sebastian Scheiner/AP

Paraguay will move its embassy in Israel back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem, its foreign minister said Wednesday.

>>Netanyahu praised Paraguay for welcoming Jews, except, they also welcomed Nazis and Hezbollah

“Paraguay wants to contribute to an intensification of regional diplomatic efforts to achieve a broad, fair and lasting peace in the Middle East,” Foreign Minister Luis Alberto Castiglioni said.

Israel will close its embassy in Paraguay and recall its ambassador for consultations following the announcement, according to the Prime Minister's Office.

Former President Horacio Cartes made the decision to move the diplomatic site to Jerusalem. His successor Mario Abdo Benitez, also a member of the conservative Colorado party, took office last month.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki pushed the new Paraguayan president to reverse the move, according to the Palestinian foreign ministry.

The Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that the efforts to change the Paraguayan decision began after Abdo was sworn in. Al-Maliki participated in the inauguration ceremony and agreed with Castiglioni a month ago. It was decided that the Palestinians would not publicize the decision in order for Israeli not to apply pressure to Paraguay.

Al-Maliki expressed his appreciation for the Paraguayan president, saying: "The decision is in accordance with international law and Security Council decisions. It's a breakthrough for Palestinian diplomacy vis-à-vis the international community."

Paraguay officially moved its country’s embassy to Jerusalem on May 21, with Cartes in Israel for the ceremony, also attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Paraguay was the third country to move its embassy to Jerusalem, following the United States and Guatemala. The inauguration ceremony took place at the embassy’s new home in the Malkha technology park, which also houses the Guatemalan embassy.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas appealed to Latin American countries afterward not to move their embassies to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, describing East Jerusalem as "the capital of the Palestinian state."

Speaking during a visit to the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, Abbas said most countries respect the status of East Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said his government was a "friend" of "Arab peoples" and that it supported "the cause of a free, independent and peaceful Palestine."

Local media in Paraguay reported that the decision to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem has drawn criticism in the country, and the decision will be reevaluated under the administration of the incoming president, Mario Abdo Benitez.

Yair Lapid, chairman of the Yesh Atid political party, said in response: "I condemn the Paraguayan decision to move the embassy from Jerusalem. We do not have nor will we ever have another capital city but the united city of Jerusalem."