Honduras, Paraguay said ready to open Jerusalem embassies if Netanyahu visits

Latin American countries reportedly prepared to follow US and Guatemala in making controversial move

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

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.
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. (AFP PHOTO / Orlando SIERRA)

After the United States, Guatemala and possibly the Czech Republic, two more countries were said on Sunday to be prepared to move their embassies in Israel to Jerusalem.

Paraguay and Honduras are both ready “in principle” to take the step, provided that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu first makes an official visit to their country, Army Radio reported, quoting a “senior Israeli diplomatic source.”

In December, sources in Jerusalem were quoted by the Ynet new website as saying that according to “initial assessments,” the two Latin American countries were expected to be among the small group of countries following the US in moving their embassies from Tel Aviv to the capital.

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

Paraguay abstained, despite having previously displayed a pro-Israel slant on several occasions.

Netanyahu, who also serves as foreign minister, visited South and Central America last year, but did not stop in either Honduras or Paraguay. He does not have any travel to the region planned in the near future. The Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment on the report.

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

US President Donald Trump signing a proclamation that the US government will formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, at the White House in Washington, DC, December 6, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images via JTA)

“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 newly re-elected Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

Trump bucked decades of US foreign policy with his December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and setting in motion of plans to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv. In February the US administration announced that it would open its Jerusalem embassy in May 2018 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence.

Last week, Guatemala announced that, like the US, it would be moving its embassy to Jerusalem in May.

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

“In May of this year, we will celebrate Israel’s 70th anniversary, and under my instructions two days after the US will move its embassy, Guatemala will return and permanently move its embassy to Jerusalem,” President Jimmy Morales told a crowd of more than 18,000 gathered in Washington, DC, for the annual AIPAC policy conference.

On Thursday, the president of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, was quoted by local media as saying that moving his country’s embassy to Jerusalem is a top priority and that he wanted to speed up the process. However, the Czech foreign minister was said to object to the move.

After Trump’s announcement, the Czech foreign ministry said it recognizes the pre-1967 West Jerusalem as the country’s capital, while noting the city should be a shared capital with the Palestinians.

“The Ministry can start considering moving of the Czech embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem only based on results of negotiations with key partners in the region and in the world,” it said.

Trump’s decision, welcomed by Israel, has been condemned by many leaders and foreign ministers across the world, who have said the city’s status should be determined through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

The move enraged the Palestinians, who have since boycotted the US administration and staged a number of protests against the decision, some of them violent.

Raphael Ahren and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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