Honduran president lands in Israel to open ‘diplomatic office’ in Jerusalem
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Honduran president lands in Israel to open ‘diplomatic office’ in Jerusalem

Leader of Central American nation has raised Palestinian ire by recognizing the city as the capital of the Jewish state

File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, meets with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez in Jerusalem on October 29, 2015. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, meets with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez in Jerusalem on October 29, 2015. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez arrived in Israel late Saturday night for a diplomatic visit that will include the inauguration of a “diplomatic office” in Jerusalem.

The move, which expresses recognition of the city as Israel’s capital, has angered the Palestinians, who have vowed to file a complaint at the United Nations against the Central American nation.

The diplomatic office in the city will be an extension of Honduras’s Tel Aviv-based embassy.

“For me it’s the recognition that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” Hernandez said in announcing the opening of the office on Tuesday.

In a statement, The Honduran foreign ministry said that Israel had suggested it move its embassy to Jerusalem — a proposition that is being “analyzed and evaluated in the international and national context.”

During his visit to Israel, Hernandez is also set to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2017 and officially moved the US embassy there last May, sparking a deterioration in relations with the Palestinians.

Guatemala and Paraguay followed suit, while Brazil has said it is studying the possibility. Paraguay reversed its decision four months later, after a change in government.

Moving an embassy to Jerusalem is highly contentious. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, while Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Most diplomatic missions in Israel are situated in or near Tel Aviv as countries try to maintain a neutral stance over the status of Jerusalem.

The Honduran announcement came a day after Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, announced in a live video stream on a Likud campaign Facebook page that Honduras will open a diplomatic facility in Jerusalem, and suggested she was responsible for making it happen.

“I’m happy to announce that on Sunday Honduras is opening a diplomatic mission in Jerusalem, a step on the way to an embassy,” she said.

In exchange, Honduras is reportedly demanding that Israel open an embassy in its capital, Tegucigalpa, and deepen bilateral trade.

In a statement Thursday, the Palestinian foreign ministry confirmed it would submit a formal complaint against Honduras to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

It called the decision a “direct aggression” against the Palestinian people and a “blatant violation of international law and legitimacy.”

In a statement, senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said the leadership would “reassess its relationship with Honduras.”

“The status of Jerusalem as an occupied city is endorsed by the vast majority of states, in line with their standing legal and moral obligations to uphold international law,” she added.

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