Guatemala says nations must respect its decision to move embassy to Jerusalem
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Guatemala says nations must respect its decision to move embassy to Jerusalem

Foreign minister says it will not reverse course on announcement that followed UN vote to condemn Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital

A woman walks across Israel square in Guatemala City on December 27, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / Orlando ESTRADA)
A woman walks across Israel square in Guatemala City on December 27, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / Orlando ESTRADA)

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala — Guatemala’s foreign minister insisted Friday that President Jimmy Morales’ plan to move the country’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem will not be reversed, and called for critics to “respect” the country’s decisions.

“It’s a decision that has been made … it is not going to be reversed,” Sandra Jovel told journalists during an event to commemorate the end of the Guatemalan civil war in 1996.

“The Guatemalan government is very respectful of the positions that other countries have taken, and as we are respectful of those decisions, we believe others should respect decisions made by Guatemala,” she added in response to critics including the Palestinians.

Last Sunday, Morales unexpectedly announced the transfer of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on social media, in the wake of the UN General Assembly’s condemnation of a similar move by the United States.

The announcement made Guatemala the first country to follow the United States’ controversial lead on the holy city.

Israel captured the eastern part of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War, and claims all of the city as its capital, while Palestinians consider East Jerusalem the capital of their future state.

In a move that delighted much of Israel’s leadership but ignited protests across the Muslim world, Trump announced on December 6 that the US recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and planned to move its embassy there.

Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the announcements by the US and Guatemala were “just the start” and predicted “there will be others.”

The European Union, however, has ruled out any change to its position.

Last week, two-thirds of UN members states — 128 in all — rejected Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Just nine countries voted against the UN General Assembly resolution: the United States, Israel, Guatemala, Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo. Other countries abstained or did not enter a vote.

The United States warned it would look at cutting funding to countries that voted against it.

Following the announcement Jovel denied that there was US pressure on her country. “We have not had pressure from any country, because we are friends and historical allies with Israel. We have asked nothing of Israel nor the United States.”

Guatemala’s Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel listens questions during a news conference in Guatemala City, Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

Her government insists the embassy is not “moving” but rather “returning” to Jerusalem, where it was originally located until being shifted to Herzliya, near Tel Aviv, in 1978.

Several mainly Latin American countries had diplomatic missions in Jerusalem until a 1980 UN Security Council resolution condemned Israel’s annexation of the city’s eastern neighborhoods.

Jovel said the plan to put the embassy in Jerusalem “had been considered for the past five months, and things just lined up in a certain way and also the resolutions in the UN and everything contributed to saying that now was the right time.”

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