Ethiopia said to freeze Jerusalem embassy move over anger at abuse of monks

Ethiopia denies ever having considered move or recalling ambassador after footage shows police rudely addressing, evicting Ethiopian monks from Jerusalem complex

Ethiopian monks gather outside an Ethiopian Church owned complex from which police evicted them on May 31, 2018. The eldest, aged 84, stands on the left. (Channel 10 News screenshot)
Ethiopian monks gather outside an Ethiopian Church owned complex from which police evicted them on May 31, 2018. The eldest, aged 84, stands on the left. (Channel 10 News screenshot)

Ethiopia has reportedly been considering moving its embassy to Jerusalem, but will no longer do so following a recent incident where Israeli police forcibly evicted Ethiopian monks from a complex owned by the Ethiopian church in Jerusalem.

“Moving the Ethiopian embassy to Jerusalem was under consideration,” said Eliezer Yasu Gil, a lawyer representing the embassy told Channel 10 on Monday. “For now this process is frozen.”

A spokesperson for the Ethiopian embassy, however, on Wednesday denied that moving the embassy was under consideration and said the lawyer did not represent the mission.

US President Donald Trump bucked longstanding international consensus with his December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, when he also announced he would move the embassy to the city. Guatemala and Paraguay have also since moved their embassies.

Most countries maintain embassies in Tel Aviv and have balked at moving them until the international legal status of the city has been resolved in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel claims the entire city as its eternal capital. Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as their future capital and were infuriated by the embassy moves.

In addition to the US, Guatemala and Paraguay, a number of other countries have expressed interest in moving their embassies to Israel, among them Honduras, the Czech Republic and Romania.

It had not previously been reported that Ethiopia was considering moving its embassy. Furthermore, the lawyer said that Ethiopia was also considering recalling its ambassador over the incident.

In a statement to The Times of Israel Wednesday, the embassy denied it had ever considered moving the embassy to Jerusalem and said it was not considering recalling its ambassador. It said Gil does not represent the embassy “and thus cannot speak on behalf of it.”

The Ethiopian ambassador to Israel, Tsegay Berha Hadera, warned last week that the forced eviction could spark a diplomatic crisis if not addressed immediately.

Amateur video footage aired by Channel 10 news showed police turning up last week at the complex on Jerusalem’s Heleni Hamalka Street, rudely addressing the monks, ordering them out of the building and trying to arrest one of them.

Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told The Times of Israel that the officers came to investigate a suspected burglary near the complex, and asked the monks for identification. When they didn’t provide it, he said, police accused the monks of trespassing.

“If you don’t show me identification, you don’t own the place. Now everyone get out,” one officer said in footage of the incident seen by The Times of Israel.

The complex houses an Ethiopian church and two early 20th century buildings originally designed as apartments for Ethiopian pilgrims.

The buildings have almost always been rented out, most recently to the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s radio service.

The oldest monk, 84, reportedly needed medical treatment after being thrown to the ground.

Channel 10 reported that police locked the complex, even though the monks had provided the documentation to prove the church owned the buildings.

The complex was being protected by security guards.

A police statement said, “It’s not at all clear how criminal behavior such as this, which included cursing and violence toward the police and refusal of arrest according to the law, have changed into a torrent so slanted against the truth. One of those involved resisted arrest and injured a police officer on the hand.”

Sue Surkes contributed to this report.

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