El Salvador’s ambassador to Israel emphatically denied media reports on Sunday that his country was planning on moving its embassy to the West Bank in response to Foreign Ministry intentions to close the Israeli embassy in the Central American nation.
The country’s newly appointed ambassador, Werner Matias Romero, told The Times of Israel that El Salvador was “not even thinking” of moving its embassy from Tel Aviv.
However, Romero expressed his grave disappointment with the Israeli move to shut down its embassy in San Salvador, the capital, and said El Salvadoran authorities had taken up the matter with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as Israel’s foreign minister.
“We were very surprised and concerned with that decision,” he said. “My minister has sent a letter to Netanyahu expressing that concern and surprise. We are hoping the government of Israel reconsiders its unfortunate decision due to the longstanding deep relationship between El Salvador and Israel.”
In addition to the embassy in El Salvador, Israel’s Foreign Ministry intends to close its consulates in Philadelphia, Marseilles, the Caribbean as well as its embassy in Belarus.
The decision to close the diplomatic outposts was reportedly made in order to free up funds needed to strengthen existing diplomatic offices.
“I just arrived in October and we were planning on deepening ties and holding a lot of joint events, programs and activities, so the decision took us by surprise,” Romero lamented.
He noted that funding for embassies is a problem for El Salvador, too, but Israel is worth the effort.
“We also struggle with trying to find enough resources so we can maintain all our embassies. El Salvador has been opening instead of closing embassies. The Israeli embassy is considered by us one of the most important. We struggle but are committed to maintaining our diplomatic network, and maintaining Israel is a priority.
“We were told by the Foreign Ministry that Israel was reaching out to Latin American countries,” he continued. “Central America, despite being small, is 55 million people, and is very economically important. El Salvador has been extremely supportive of allowing Israel to join the Central American Integration System (CETA) as an extraterritorial member. Israel has wanted to become an extraterritorial member, and the HQ is in San Salvador.
“We in El Salvador are also going through hard times in terms of security and see Israel as a key partner in this endeavor.”
“I want to reiterate that we are disappointed but we are hopeful. Even though Israel said they will shut the embassy down at the end of 2016, we will try to get the government to reconsider.”
Earlier Sunday, the Ynet news site quoted diplomatic sources saying that El Salvador had threatened to close its embassy in Israel and move it to the West Bank or Egypt because Salvadorian officials were upset to learn that Israel had decided to close its mission in San Salvador.
In the summer of 2014, El Salvador recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv in protest over Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip. Israeli Foreign Ministry officials slammed the move, saying recalling ambassadors only encouraged Gaza’s radical Hamas leaders.