Guatemala on ‘wrong side of history’ on Jerusalem, Palestinian FM says

Guatemala on ‘wrong side of history’ on Jerusalem, Palestinian FM says

Jordanian foreign minister calls President Morales’s decision to move embassy to capital an ‘absurd provocation’

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki. (AFP/Miguel Medina)
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki. (AFP/Miguel Medina)

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki on Monday slammed the Guatemalan president’s “shameful and illegal” decision to move his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Guatemala became the first nation to pledge to move its mission to Jerusalem since December 6, when US President Donald Trump publicly recognized the city as Israel’s capital and issued instructions to move the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv.

“It is a step that reflects President [Jimmy] Morales’ insistence on dragging his country to the wrong side of history, in a blatant violation of international law, Security Council resolutions and General Assembly resolutions, including the most recent resolution [condemning the US move],” said Malki, in statements carried by the PA’s official news site Wafa.

“It’s a shameful and illegal act that goes totally against the wishes of church leaders in Jerusalem,” he added.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi also weighed in on the Guatemalan decision, calling it “absurd.”

“We reject the Guatemala decision to move [its] embassy to Jerusalem & condemn it as [an] absurd provocation [and a] violation of international law. Occupied Jerusalem is capital of #Palestinian state which must be established on June 4 1967 lines on basis of 2-state solution as only path to peace,” Safadi tweeted.

Earlier Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Guatemala’s decision to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem, saying other countries would soon follow suit.

“God bless you, my friend, President Jimmy Morales. God bless both our countries, Israel and Guatemala,” said Netanyahu at the weekly Likud faction meeting in the Knesset.

Morales said on his official Facebook account on Sunday that after talks with Netanyahu, he had decided to instruct his foreign ministry to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“We spoke about the excellent relations that we have had as nations since Guatemala supported the creation of the state of Israel,” he wrote. “One of the most important topics [of the conversation] was the return of the embassy of Guatemala to Jerusalem. So I inform you that I have instructed the chancellor to initiate the respective coordination so that it may happen.”

This file picture taken on November 28, 2016, shows Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shaking hands during a joint press conference after signing bilateral agreements at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. (AFP Photo/Pool/Abir Sultan)

Guatemala is home to about 1,000 Jews among a population of 15 million.

Guatemala was one of nine nations that voted last week with the United States when the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a non-binding resolution denouncing Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The resolution passed at the UN declared the US action on Jerusalem “null and void.” The 128-9 vote was a victory for Palestinians, but fell short of the total they had predicted. Thirty-five nations abstained and 21 stayed away from the vote.

Guatemala and Israel were joined by Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo in voting with the United States and opposing the measure. There were also 35 abstentions and 21 countries were absent or did not vote at all.

In a December 6 address from the White House, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace, a new approach was long overdue. He described his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as merely based on reality.

The move was hailed by Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum, and condemned by much of the rest of the world. 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.

AP and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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