Honduras agrees to advance Jerusalem embassy move

Honduras agrees to advance Jerusalem embassy move

Joint statement from US, Israel and Honduras indicates Jerusalem and Washington will upgrade ties with Tegucigalpa in exchange for move

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)

Israel and Honduras agreed to push ahead with a plan to open embassies in Jerusalem and Tegucigalpa, the countries said Tuesday.

The agreement came as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and US Secretary Mike Pompeo on the sidelines of the inauguration of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia.

The countries “agreed to pursue a plan of action, which includes meetings in their three respective capitals, to advance the process of the decision to open embassies in both Tegucigalpa and Jerusalem,” a joint statement from the three countries released by the US State Department read.

Tegucigalpa has reportedly expressed interest in moving the country’s embassy to Jerusalem in exchange for Israel upgrading its consulate in Honduras to an embassy and getting Israeli know-how on cyber security, water and agriculture tech and law enforcement.

According to an Israeli TV report last month, Honduras had also sought upgraded ties with the Trump administration as part of the deal.

Benjamin Netanyahu, third right, and Juan Orlando Hernandez, third left, meeting in Brasilia, Brazil, on January 1, 2019. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

The sides “agreed to strengthen political relations and coordinate cooperation on development in Honduras,” the joint statement released Tuesday read.

Hernandez said after the meeting that the sides had come together in “an important political alliance,” Reuters reported.

“The US, Israel and Honduras are uniting as Strategic Allies, committed to the development and security of their peoples,” he wrote in a tweet. “The alliance will be great results and positively impact the Honduran people.”

Hernandez said Netanyahu had also agreed to open up the Israeli market to Honduran coffee exports, according to a statement issued by his office.

Tegucigalpa has been seeking to temper tensions with the Trump administration over Honduran migrants attempting to migrate illegally into the US.

Earlier, Netanyahu’s office released a statement saying he had “discussed advancing the opening of the two embassies, in Jerusalem and Honduras,” with Hernandez and Pompeo.

Netanyahu also met separately with Hernandez, though no information was issued about that meeting.

The Israeli statement also noted that Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales and Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara Netanyahu had spoken with Hernandez by phone about the embassy issue while she visited Guatemala last month.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Brasilia on January 1, 2019 (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Guatemala is the only country aside from the United States with its embassy in Jerusalem, though Brazil’s Bolsonaro has also vowed to move his country’s mission to the Israeli capital, according to Netanyahu. Paraguay briefly moved its embassy, but reversed the decision months later.

A delegation from Honduras visited Israel late last month to discuss expanding ties and a possible embassy move, according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, which said at the time that talks had yet to mature.

According to the report, Netanyahu and Hernandez were to seal the deal during the Brasilia meeting.

Honduras’ re-elected President Juan Orlando Hernandez (L) shakes hands with the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, before speaking to the press in Tegucigalpa, on February 27, 2018.

Last year, Honduras was one of only eight countries that opposed a UN General Assembly resolution condemning US President Donald Trump’s December 2017 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, along with Guatemala, Israel, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo.

The US ambassador to the United Nations at the time, Nikki Haley, heaped fulsome praise on Honduras for its UN vote, saying it showed the two countries’ bonds were evident.

“That was not an easy decision for any country to have to vote on, but the people of Honduras stood with us in being able to make that decision for ourselves and decide where we want our embassy and to know that is our right,” Haley said in a joint news conference with Hernandez in March.

View of the US embassy in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood, May 13, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu has made a major push for other countries to follow the US in moving their embassies to Jerusalem, with moderate success. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said he would consider the issue, said last month that his government would only recognize the western half of the city as Israel’s capital and leave its embassy in Tel Aviv.

Moldova’s president recently said his country would “very seriously consider” moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according to Jewish interlocutors who met with him.

A protestor holds a placard reading “Al-Quds (Jerusalem in Arabic) belongs to the Muslims” during a protest in Istanbul against the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (AFP Photo/Ozan Kose)

Countries who have expressed interest in moving embassies have been met with denunciations by Arab and Muslim leaders and threats to downgrade ties or harm trade relations.

Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, but Palestinians see the eastern half of the city as the capital of their future state.

Most of the international community maintain that Jerusalem’s status should be determined through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

read more: