Santiago: We want to maintain warm ties with Israel

Chile reschedules ceremony to accredit Israeli ambassador after diplomatic snub

Envoy will present credentials on September 30, Santiago says, explaining that last-minute cancellation was due to killing of Palestinian teen on ceremony’s original date

Ambassador Gil Artzyeli (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Ambassador Gil Artzyeli (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Chile’s foreign ministry announced Saturday that it rescheduled the acceptance of the credentials of Israel’s new ambassador to Santiago, seemingly looking to move past a diplomatic spat with Jerusalem, which it caused last week when it held off on going through with the formality at the last minute.

The ministry said in a statement that the acceptance of Israeli Ambassador Gil Artzyeli’s credentials will now take place on September 30.

Explaining the decision to suspend the ceremonial procedure on Thursday, the ministry said it had to do with “the political sensitivity” generated by the death of a 17-year-old Palestinian during an IDF operation in the northern West Bank. Hours earlier, Oday Salah was shot dead in violent clashes with Israeli troops who were in the village of Kafr Dan to map the homes of two residents who allegedly shot and killed an IDF officer the day before. The IDF said its troops opened fire on suspects who threw explosives at them.

The ministry statement stressed the “exceptional nature” of the killing that led to the decision to postpone the event, while adding that Chile still wants to “maintain a [warm] and constructive relationship with the State of Israel and its people, based on respect, dialogue and cooperation.”

Thursday’s move by Santiago sparked fierce condemnation from Israel, which summoned Chile’s ambassador to Tel Aviv for a reprimand on Friday.

A diplomatic official with close knowledge of the incident told The Associated Press that Artzyeli “was already at the palace, waiting to go into the room, when the minister of foreign relations came up to him and said that due to an incident that had taken place… with the death of a 17-year-old teenager in an operation by the Israeli military, the president had decided in that context to postpone the delivery of the credentials.”

After the incident sparked controversy within Chile, Artzyeli was summoned to the Chilean Foreign Ministry Thursday afternoon.

“They apologized to me and the State of Israel numerous times,” Artzyeli told journalists after a meeting with Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ximena Fuentes. “It wasn’t a very comfortable incident this morning, but being Israeli and a Jew, my people have gone through worse things over the past four thousand years. And we will overcome this morning’s incident for the good of Chile, for the good of Israel and our bilateral relations.”

Fuentes also called Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz to apologize for the fact that Artzyeli had been unable to submit his credentials on Thursday.

In the reported Saturday call, the Chilean official said that relations with Israel were important and Santiago hoped they would be maintained. Ushpiz said in response that he welcomed the apology as the diplomatic incident could have caused serious damage to relations between the two nations.

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