Paraguay opens embassy in Jerusalem, after U.S. and Guatemala

Paraguay has opened its new embassy in Jerusalem, following in the footsteps of the United States and Guatemala. Romania, the Czech Republic, and Honduras have said they are also considering doing the same.

President Horacio Cartes dedicated the embassy on Monday, making Paraguay the third country to transfer its diplomatic mission in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with President Horacio Cartes at the official opening of Paraguayan embassy in Jerusalem Amos Ben Grshom, GPO.

Netanyahu gave a speech at the ceremony in which he emphasized that both countries “have great cooperation and it will be even better.”

“Paraguay supported the creation of the State of Israel in the United Nations. We will never forget that. Paraguay, before but especially under your leadership, took a very bold stance in international affairs and refused to cooperate with the lies directed against Israel. We always remember that.

“And because of this, you have not only the support of our government but the profound gratitude of the people of Israel. We remember our friends. We have no better friends than you,” Netanyahu said.

At the event, Netanyahu also said “Paraguay helped Jews escape Nazi Germany. We will never forget this.” Paraguay, however, was also known as a safe haven for Nazi fugitives – including Josef Mengele.

Cartes responded by saying, “From the depth of my heart, I appreciate this country that courageously defends its right to live in peace and it is building a praiseworthy economically prosperous state that ensures its future and that of its children.”

President Reuven Rivlin met with Cartes before the ceremony and said he was “happy and proud” to host him. “Paraguay is thousands of miles from here, but our hearts are close.”

Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes sits next to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at his residence in Jerusalem, ahead of the dedication ceremony of the embassy of Paraguay in Jerusalem, on Monday. Photo Credit: Reuters.

Cartes thanked him and said, “Many ask me why we decided to move the embassy to Jerusalem and I can say that we decided to put things in their right place. We don’t owe you anything and you don’t owe us anything. This is just the right thing to do.”

In Paraguayan circles, Cartes is considered controversial: a billionaire from banking and trading in cigars and drink, his name has been associated with money-laundering and drug-smuggling.

The US relocated its embassy to Jerusalem a week ago, drawing Palestinian and international anger, and was followed by Guatemala on Wednesday.

Palestinian leaders see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and have said that US President Donald Trump’s move disqualifies the US as a peace mediator.

Previous US presidents, as well as nearly every other country, refrained from opening embassies in Jerusalem, arguing that the city’s final status should first be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Al Jazeera, AP, The Hindu, AFP, Haaretz

Zehra Özçelik

The Kootneeti Team - Middle East Monitor

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