Guatemala inaugurates embassy in Jerusalem after USA move

Saul Bowman
May 17, 2018

This move, which follows the inauguration of the U.S. Embassy two days ago, should hardly come as a surprise: Guatemala's strong ties with Israel go back to 1948, when it was the second country, similarly behind the U.S., to recognize its statehood. Guatemala previously had an embassy in Jerusalem, the first country in the world to open an embassy in the city in 1956.

Wednesday's development comes amid widespread anger and protests in the occupied Palestinian territories, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, or Catastrophe.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, third left, his wife Sara, second left, and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, center, watch as the Guatemalan First Lady Hilda Patricia Marroquin cuts the ribbon during the dedication ceremony of the embassy of Guatemala in Jerusalem, Wednesday, May 16, 2018.

Nearly half a century on, Guatemala's new position can be seen as both a parroting of US foreign policy and as a chance to strengthen relations with Israel, from which it buys most of its arms. The latter is a major arms supplier to the Central American nation.

The Palestinians, who seek East Jerusalem as capital of their hoped-for state, vehemently oppose the U.S. Embassy's relocation from Tel Aviv, seeing it as a one-sided move that invalidates the a Mideast peace broker.

And Al Jazeera reports Paraguay plans to move its embassy to Jerusalem by the end of May.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said ambassadors to Romania, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria were being called home for consultations after those countries sent envoys to a celebratory event held by Israel's Foreign Ministry ahead of the U.S Embassy opening. That move caused some tension because both Israel and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital.

In 1980, Guatemala pulled its diplomats from Jerusalem after the Knesset announced the controversial Jerusalem Law, which triumphantly declared the city, "complete and united", as Israel's capital.

The Arab League and the French government condemned the United States embassy move as illegal and in contravention of UN Security Council resolutions surrounding the conflict.

The US, however, blocked a statement drafted by Kuwait calling for an independent investigation into the killings of Palestinian protesters in Gaza and calling on countries not to station their diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.

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