Romanian president rebuffs his ‘ignorant’ PM over pledge to move embassy

Final decision on relocating mission ‘rests with me,’ stresses Klaus Iohannis, contradicting government head’s statement at AIPAC conference

Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, left, stands next to Romania's President Klaus Iohannis, after the swearing in of her cabinet, in Bucharest, Romania, on January 29, 2018. (AP/Vadim Ghirda)
Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, left, stands next to Romania's President Klaus Iohannis, after the swearing in of her cabinet, in Bucharest, Romania, on January 29, 2018. (AP/Vadim Ghirda)

Romania’s president on Sunday chastised his prime minister for declaring that Bucharest would relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, saying the announcement reflected her lack of knowledge of diplomacy.

Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă earlier on Sunday told a pro-Israel lobby conference in Washington, DC, that Bucharest would seek to relocate its embassy to Israel’s capital.

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 prime minister shows complete ignorance regarding foreign affairs,” said Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, according to local reports.

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

Iohannis, who in the past has pushed back against politicians seeking to move the embassy, said the final decision on whether to move the mission in Israel “rests with me.”

Dăncilă’s comments were hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who thanked “my friend, the prime minister of Romania, Viorica Dăncilă,” for her plan to move the embassy, minutes before Iohannis released his statement.

The move would make Romania just the third country to put its embassy in Jerusalem, after the US and Guatemala.

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 earlier on Sunday 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.

Honduras’ President Juan Orlando Hernandez speaks at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC, on March 24, 2019. (Screen capture/ AIPAC)

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.

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.

Raphael Ahren and agencies contributed to this report.

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