Netanyahu in Brazil pushes Honduras on Jerusalem embassy move

Prime minister holds three-way talks with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and US top diplomat Mike Pompeo to discuss opening embassies in Israeli capital and Tegucigalpa

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lobbied Honduras’s president on opening an embassy in Jerusalem and expanding bilateral ties as the two met in Brazil Tuesday.

The two leaders met on the sidelines of the inauguration of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia, where Netanyahu also held meetings with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others.

At a meeting attended by Netanyahu, Pompeo and Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez, the three “discussed advancing the opening of the two embassies, in Jerusalem and Honduras,” according to a statement from Netanyahu’s office.

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

Tegucigalpa has reportedly expressed interest in moving the country’s embassy to Jerusalem in exchange for Israel opening an embassy in Honduras and technology sharing.

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

There were no immediate comments from the US State Department or Hernandez’s office.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales and Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara Netanyahu had spoken with Hernandez by phone while she visited Guatemala last month.

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 talks had yet to mature.

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.

According to a report at the time by Israel’s Hadashot TV news, Tegucigalpa wants Israel to upgrade its consulate in the country to a permanent embassy in exchange for the move. It is also particularly interested in getting advice from Israeli experts on cyber issues, crime fighting, water, and agriculture, the report said.

Foreign Ministry sources were quoted as saying that the Hondurans also indicated that they want to move to lead to improved ties with the Trump administration in Washington.

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

Shorter flight to Chile

While in Brazil, Netanyahu also met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, Cape Verde President Jorge Carlos Fonseca and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

Netanyahu and Pinera discussed establishing a direct flight route between Tel Aviv and Santiago that overflies Africa, according to Hebrew media reports.

President Idriss Deby of Chad (L) is welcomed at Ben Gurion Airport by Regional Cooperation Minsiter Tzachi Hanegbi (C) and National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat, November 25, 2018. (Avi Hayon/Foreign Ministry)

Chile’s Latam Airlines last month began flying a route from Santiago to Tel Aviv with a stopover in Santiago. However, the flight bypasses Africa, adding several hours to the trip.

A direct flight path would involve overflying Chad and Sudan. Israel is the midst of upgrading ties with Chad, which in turn is reportedly helping ease tensions between Khartoum and Jerusalem.

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