Guatemala starts moving its embassy to Jerusalem
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Guatemala starts moving its embassy to Jerusalem

Netanyahu says he is moved to see country's flag at capital's Malha Technology Park, two weeks before official inauguration

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

The still-unfinished office of Guatemala's new embassy in Jerusalem, May 2, 2018 (Raphael Ahren/TOI)
The still-unfinished office of Guatemala's new embassy in Jerusalem, May 2, 2018 (Raphael Ahren/TOI)

Guatemala on Wednesday started to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, transferring furniture and other equipment into a yet-unfinished office in the capital’s Malha Technology Park.

Earlier this week, the Guatemalan flag was raised outside the building.

“I was moved to see the flag of Guatemala waving in Jerusalem in advance of the opening of the Guatemalan embassy later this month,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted. “Dear friends, welcome back to our eternal capital!”

The Central American country’s president, Jimmy Morales, and foreign minister, Sandra Jovel, are scheduled to attend the embassy’s official opening on May 14. They will arrive in Israel a day earlier in order to attend a festive event at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem to celebrate the inaugurations of the new Guatemalan and US embassies.

Guatemalan journalists take photos of the of the Guatemalan flag outside the country’s new embassy in Jerusalem, May 2, 2018 (Raphael Ahren/TOI)

On Wednesday around noon, a hired worker was busy painting one of the rooms as Carlos Meyer, the Guatemalan embassy’s first secretary, arrived with an aide to coordinate the arrival of office chairs and other pieces of furniture.

Before Guatemala rented the office for its new embassy, it was a branch of Bank Leumi.

Meyer, one of two Guatemalan diplomats stationed in Israel, has already moved to a new apartment in the capital’s Nahlaot neighborhood. The ambassador, Sara Solís Castañeda, is expected to commute to Jerusalem from her Herzliya residence until she finds a new home in the capital.

Outside the building, four journalists from Guatemala were busy taking photographs of their country’s flag.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales in Washington, DC, on March 4, 2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Israel celebrated the hoisting of the flag earlier this week on various social media channels, but neglected to point out that it was waving next to Old Glory as well as the flags of other countries — Great Britain, Austria and Denmark — that are unlikely to move their embassies to Jerusalem in the near future.

Last month, Netanyahu promised that the first ten countries relocating their embassies to Jerusalem will receive “preferential treatment.”

“We’ll help you!” he pledged during a speech for foreign diplomats at the President’s Residence.

However, Guatemalan diplomats were said to have complained that they received less assistance than they had hoped for.

Guatemala’s embassy did not respond to several requests for comment. The Foreign Ministry also declined to comment on whether it had provided any assistance to Guatemala in the relocation process.

A spokesperson for the Jerusalem municipality told The Times of Israel, “The Jerusalem Municipality provided assistance and guidance as requested by the Guatemalan foreign mission throughout the entire process, which has been smooth and efficient.

“The Municipality is ready and willing to assist any country that chooses to stand on the side of truth and relocate their embassy to our eternal capital, Jerusalem.”

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