Palestinians blast Romanian prime minister’s pledge to move embassy

Saeb Erekat urges European Union to intervene; transfer of mission unlikely, as president has opposed move

Saeb Erekat speaks during a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on September 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)
Saeb Erekat speaks during a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on September 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

A senior Palestinian official on Sunday condemned a pledge by Romania’s premier to relocate her country’s embassy to Jerusalem, saying he would press the European Union to intervene.

Romania’s Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă earlier on Sunday told a pro-Israel lobby conference in Washington that Bucharest would seek to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as Honduras also announced the opening of a diplomatic office in Israel’s capital.

Top Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said a Romanian embassy move would be a “blatant violation of Palestinian rights, international law, and UN resolutions. It only contributes to eliminating the two-state solution, the only way towards peace and stability in the whole region.”

“We call upon the European Union to take action on this decision, which is a violation of Europe’s long-standing policy,” tweeted Erekat, adding that he would also raise the matter with the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Speaking at the annual AIPAC policy conference, Dăncilă said she was “pleased” to announce that “I, as prime minister of Romania, and the government that I run will move our embassy to Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel.”

The move would make Romania just the third country to put its embassy in Jerusalem, after the US and Guatemala. However, it is not clear if Dăncilă has the needed support of Romanian president, Klaus Iohannis, who has yet to comment on the issue.

Last year, the Romanian government, supported by the speaker of its parliament, adopted a draft proposal to move the country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But Iohannis, who has frequently clashed with the government, opposed the Romanian move, in the absence of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, and called for Dăncilă’s resignation.

Dăncilă on Tuesday also pledged to work to improve Israel-European Union ties, which have seen a downturn in recent years.

“I am determined to contribute to closer relations between Israel and the entire European Union, particularly now, when Romania is holding the presidency of the Council of the European Union,” she said.

The Romanian prime minister’s announcement was hailed by Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who said the process began several months ago during an official visit.

Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă speaks at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC, on March 24, 2019. (Screen capture/AIPAC)

“I am happy to have had the honor to kickstart the process several months ago during an official visit to the country,” said Hotovely, expressing hope that other countries would follow suit.

Last week, Hungary’s foreign minister opened a trade office in Jerusalem that will have official “diplomatic status,” during a short visit to Israel on Tuesday, prompting the EU to reiterate that its member states continue to oppose the presence of diplomatic missions in the city.

Honduras’ President Juan Orlando Hernandez talks during an economic forum as part the XXVI Iberoamerican Summit in Antigua, Guatemala, November 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

Addressing the same forum on Sunday, Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández told the audience that his country will “immediately” open a diplomatic office in Jerusalem.

“Honduras will immediately open our official diplomatic mission and this will extend our embassy to the capital of Israel, Jerusalem,” Hernández said.

In the long term, Hernandez said his country will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, once Israel opens an embassy in the Honduras capital of Tegucigalpa.

Both countries have previously underlined their plans to relocate their respective missions.

Raphael Ahren and agencies contributed to this report.

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