Paraguay Embassy Move Diplomatic Blow to Israel

Paraguay Embassy Move Diplomatic Blow to Israel

Paraguay said Wednesday it's moving its Israeli embassy back to Tel Aviv, just weeks after moving the consulate to Jerusalem.

"Paraguay wants to contribute to an intensification of regional diplomatic efforts to achieve a broad, fair and lasting peace in the Middle East", he said.

Abdo took office last month and belongs to the same conservative party as his predecessor Horacio Cartes, who inaugurated Paraguay's new embassy in Jerusalem in May. His foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, pushed the freshly installed Paraguay administration to reverse its decision, according to a statement from his office which announced "a new Palestinian diplomatic achievement".

"Israel views very seriously Paraguay's exceptional decision which will strain the relations between the countries", Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said in a statement.

The move comes as Paraguay joins the effort to bring peace to the Middle East. "Opening the Paraguayan Embassy in Jerusalem was indicative of that support".

Israel's efforts to achieve external recognition of Jerusalem as its capital, hade gained some traction this year with the United States, Guatemala and Paraguay opening embassies there.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry praised the reversal and Paraguay's "commitment to worldwide law".

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Additionally, senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat also praised Paraguay's move, while urging Guatemala to follow suit and return its embassy to Tel Aviv.

Paraguay was one of the two states - the other one being Guatemala-that followed in the footsteps of the USA in its much-criticized policy shift on the situation of the Palestinian city under Israeli occupation.

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat welcomed Wednesday's reversal: "We commend Paraguay's decision to act in accordance with its obligations under global law by closing its embassy in Jerusalem and relocating it to Tel Aviv", he said in a statement. "Only respecting worldwide law and United Nations resolutions will help to achieve a just and lasting peace".

In a tit-for-tat response, Israel announced it would close its embassy in Paraguay.

Most countries do not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the entire city and say its final status should be set in peace talks. Netanyahu also holds the foreign minister's portfolio. "Paraguay considers that it has to be addressed through negotiations by the concerned parties, within the framework of the relevant worldwide organizations' decisions", the statement continued.

However, the Palestinian Authority said it would "immediately" open an embassy in the South American country.

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