TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Honduras will open an embassy in Jerusalem this month, the country’s president said Thursday, in a bid to build closer ties with Israel after decades of operating in Tel Aviv.
The Central American nation previously opened a commercial office in Jerusalem, breaking a decades-long policy of neutrality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel is set to open a diplomatic office in Tegucigalpa, Honduras’s capital city, in response, after opening a temporary representative office in the Honduran capital last August.
“We are going to formalize what we have already carried out step by step, which is the installation of our embassy in Jerusalem,” President Juan Orlando Hernandez said.
He added that the move “will empower us on the agricultural side, in the field of innovation and in the field of tourism.”
There was no immediate comment from Israeli officials.
Honduras has had difficulty obtaining COVID-19 vaccines to control a pandemic that has overwhelmed hospitals, but in February obtained 5,000 Moderna shots donated by Israel.
Last September, following a phone call between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hernandez, Israel had said the mutual embassies would be opened by the end of 2020. That didn’t end up happening, apparently due to the pandemic.
Honduras has the second-largest Palestinian community in Latin America, second only to Chile.
It joins a small but growing number of nations with embassies in Jerusalem, including the United States, Kosovo, and its Central American neighbor Guatemala.
Honduras recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in August 2019, and a month later opened a commercial office in Jerusalem as an extension to Honduras’s embassy in Rishon Lezion.
In January 2020, Honduras officially declared Hezbollah a terrorist organization in a move praised by Jerusalem.
US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2017 and officially moved the US embassy there in 2018, sparking a deterioration in relations with the Palestinians. Guatemala followed suit soon after.
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.