Romanian prime minister says she will move embassy to Jerusalem

But transfer unlikely as president has opposed move; Honduras president tells AIPAC confab his country will immediately open diplomatic office in capital, to be followed by mission

Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila during an EU Tripartite Social Summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on March 20, 2019. (JOHN THYS / AFP)
Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila during an EU Tripartite Social Summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on March 20, 2019. (JOHN THYS / AFP)

Romania’s Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă on Sunday told a pro-Israel lobby conference in Washington that Bucharest would seek to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as Honduras also announced the opening of a diplomatic office in 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 move would make Romania just the third country to put its embassy in Jerusalem, after the US and Guatemala. However, it’s 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 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.

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 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 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.

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

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.

Last year, Honduras was one of only eight countries that opposed a UN General Assembly resolution condemning US President Donald Trump’s December 2017 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, along with Guatemala, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Togo and Israel.

Trump in December 2017 recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The US opened its embassy in the city the following May.

So far, only the United States and Guatemala have broken with the international consensus by opening embassies in Jerusalem. Paraguay backtracked on a decision last year to move its embassy.

A new road sign indicating the way to the new US embassy in Jerusalem is seen on May 7, 2018. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)

Other countries, including Brazil, have signaled interest in relocating their embassies but have yet to implement a move.

In December, Australia announced its recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but said that an embassy shift from Tel Aviv will not occur until a peace deal with the Palestinians is achieved.

The Czech Republic in November ceremoniously opened the so-called Czech House in Jerusalem, which houses companies such as CzechInvest, CzechTrade, CzechTourism, and Czech Center in a small office space in the capital’s Cinematheque. The Czech House does not have diplomatic status.

Raphael Ahren and agencies contributed to this report.

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