Paraguay will move its embassy in Israel back to Tel Aviv, reversing a May decision by former President Horacio Cartes to move the diplomatic site to Jerusalem, the South American country's foreign minister told reporters on Wednesday.
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"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.
The decision by Paraguay's new president, Mario Abdo, to move the embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv reversed the initiative of his predecessor Cartes, less than four months ago.
The Palestinians said their foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, met Abdo two weeks ago and hailed Paraguay's change of mind as "a new Palestinian diplomatic achievement."
"Minister Maliki exerted a big effort during his meeting with the new president who instructed his foreign minister to arrange the issue," the Palestinian foreign ministry said in a statement.
Israel responded to Paraguay’s decision by recalling its ambassador to Paraguay and closing its embassy in the Latin American country’s capital, Asuncion. "Israel views with utmost gravity the extraordinary decision by Paraguay which will cloud bilateral relations."
Paraguay and Guatemala were the two nations from Latin America that mirrored the U.S.' decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv, where most countries have their embassies, to the contested city of Jerusalem. U.S. President Donald Trump ended decades of Washington’s policy stating that the status of the city of Jerusalem must be decided as part of a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, a position that most of the international community continues to fully support.
In the 1967 war Israel took over the eastern part of the city as well as the West Bank from Jordan. In 1980, Israel annexed East Jerusalem and declared the whole city as its capital, a move that was rejected by most countries in the world.
The western side of the city is part of the widely-accepted territory of the state of Israel which was founded in 1948 after the end of the British Mandate for Palestine, resulting in the displacement of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and villages. The Palestinian leadership and most of the international community consider East Jerusalem as occupied territory and the future capital of a sovereign Palestinian state.
Also, the news comes just days after Colombian right-wing President Ivan Duque said that his predecessor's decision to recognize Palestine as a state was "irreversible" considering the constitutional powers granted to the country's president, and affirmed that his government would show full support for the two-state solution based on the Oslo Accords and United Nations resolution.