Paraguay president lands in Israel for Jerusalem embassy opening
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Paraguay president lands in Israel for Jerusalem embassy opening

Horacio Cartes greeted at airport by Likud minister, who thanks him for his ‘brave leadership’; new mission to be inaugurated Monday

Paraguay' President Horacio Cartes (3rd-L) is greeted at Ben Gurion International Airport by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (3rd-R) after landing in Israel to attend the opening of the Paraguayan embassy in Jerusalem, on May 20, 2018. (Foreign Ministry)
Paraguay' President Horacio Cartes (3rd-L) is greeted at Ben Gurion International Airport by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (3rd-R) after landing in Israel to attend the opening of the Paraguayan embassy in Jerusalem, on May 20, 2018. (Foreign Ministry)

Paraguay’s President Horacio Cartes arrived in Israel Sunday evening ahead of the opening of his country’s embassy in Jerusalem this week.

Cartes was greeted at the airport by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who praised him for moving the Paraguayan embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

“I thanked the president for his decision that testifies to the depth of countries’ ties and his brave leadership. Another state leader that chooses truth and strengthens our sovereignty in our capital,” Erdan tweeted.

Paraguay is set to open its new mission in Jerusalem on Monday, making it the third country to do so after the United States and Guatemala opened their embassies in the city last week.

Following the embassy inauguration, Cartes will attend a reception at the Foreign Ministry attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said.

Last month, Cartes said he wanted to relocate the country’s embassy to Jerusalem before the end of his presidential term in August.

The decision has been controversial in Paraguay. It comes less than two months before Mario Abdo Benitez replaces Cartes, and the president-elect has said he wasn’t consulted.

Israel claims the entire city as its eternal capital. Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as their future capital and have been infuriated by the embassy moves.

Most countries maintain embassies in Tel Aviv and have balked at moving them until the international legal status of the city has been resolved in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

In addition to the US, Guatemala and Paraguay, a number of other countries have expressed interest in moving their embassies to Israel, among them Honduras, the Czech Republic and Romania.

People watch as US President Donald Trump speaks in a prerecorded video shown at the inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

US President Donald Trump bucked longstanding international consensus with his December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, when he also announced he would move the embassy to the city.

In a video message shown at Monday’s embassy inauguration, Trump said his recognition was of the “plain reality that Israel’s capital is Jerusalem,” noting that the city houses Israel’s main governmental facilities, Supreme Court, Prime Minister’s Office and president’s home.

He also stressed that the US remains committed to facilitating an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal and called for Israel to preserve the status quo at religious sites in Jerusalem.

AP contributed to this report.

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