Honduras: Jerusalem embassy move to come after Israel opens Tegucigalpa office

As Central American nation takes possession of $50m warship it purchased from Israel, its president says mission will only move after foreign ministry opens office in country

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)

Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez said Friday that his government would transfer its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem once Israel opens an embassy in Tegucigalpa.

Right-wing leader Hernandez announced the embassy move in August and a month later opened a commercial office in Jerusalem as an extension to Honduras’ Tel Aviv-based embassy.

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.

“We’re just waiting for the State of Israel, reciprocally as is appropriate diplomatically, to open its office in Tegucigalpa and we’ll be transferring our embassy to Jerusalem,” said Hernandez.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the opening of a Honduran trade office in Jerusalem, on September 1, 2019. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)

Israel is currently represented in Honduras by its Guatemala embassy. Guatemala was one of the first countries to follow the lead of US President Donald Trump when he controversially moved his country’s embassy to Jerusalem, sparking a rift between Washington and the Palestinian Authority.

Hernandez’s statement came as Honduras took possession of a warship worth more than $50 million bought from Israel.

Israeli officials said recently that Honduras is expected to transfer its embassy to the city in the coming weeks.

The two countries are engaged in “advanced talks about the opening soon of an Israeli embassy in the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa, and about the transfer of the Honduran embassy to Jerusalem,” a senior Foreign Ministry official said in November.

Israeli officials said that despite the Foreign Ministry’s severe budgetary restraints, funds have been secured to open an embassy in Tegucigalpa.

Currently, the Honduran embassy is located in Rishon Lezion, near Tel Aviv.

At the September inauguration of the Honduran trade mission, located inside the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce on 10 Hillel Street, Hernandez said the office was merely a “first step,” adding that the second step — opening an embassy — would follow in the coming months.

So far, only the United States and Guatemala have moved their embassies to the capital. The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Australia have trade offices in the city, with varying diplomatic status. Slovakia and Ukraine have pledged to open similar missions in Jerusalem as well.

Eduardo Bolsonaro, Brazilian federal deputy and son of Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro, at an event opening the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency in Jerusalem, December 15, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Brazil in December officially opened a trade office in Jerusalem, a move that senior officials said was a harbinger of the South American country moving its embassy to the Israeli capital this year.

At the event, Eduardo Bolsonaro, a senior lawmaker and the son of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, reiterated his government’s pledge to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem soon.

Brazil is currently still studying the implications of transferring its embassy to Jerusalem, Bolsonaro said, stressing that when the relocation happens, it should inspire other Latin American nations to follow suit.

After the event, Bolsonaro told Netanyahu that Brazil is “committed to moving the embassy in 2020,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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