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Guatemala Unimpressed With Threats Of Arab Boycott Over Embassy Move

A picture taken on December 25, 2017, shows the Guatemalan flag hanging outside the building where the embassy is located in the Israeli city of Herzliya, near Tel Aviv
AFP

The foreign minister of Guatemala defended her country’s decision to follow in the path laid out by the U.S.A. and to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

According to a report by the Algemeiner, Guatemalan Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel said that her government was not intimidated by threats of an Arab boycott over her country’s recognition of Jerusalem.

Jovel characterized the threats of a boycott as a “media scare tactic.”

“This tactic is being used in the media by a small group with special interests who are opposed to our decision to move our embassy,” Jovel told the Algemeiner in an interview. “But we’ve been strong in that decision, we trust that it was the correct decision, and we will continue to stand by it.”

Guatemala and Israel have enjoyed close diplomatic and political ties. But the 17-million strong country also conducts ample trade with the Arab world.

One Guatemalan crop, cardamom, is exported to the Middle East for use in the Arabic coffee that is consumed in most Arab countries. The world’s largest importer of the spice, Saudi Arabia, receives 94 percent of its cardamom from Guatemala, which is the world’s largest producer of the spice.

Earlier this week, PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said that he will try to enact boycotts against countries that announced that they would move their embassies to Jerusalem.

Meanwhile the PA, in an official statement, lamented Guatemala’s decision, which it called a “shameful and illegal act that goes totally against the wishes of church leaders in Jerusalem.”

Jovel told the Algemeiner that the Palestinians “have a right to their opinion.”

“We respect that,” she said. “And we expect them to respect our sovereign diplomatic position just as we respect theirs.”

Guatemala was committed to protecting its cardamom farmers, an industry employing 45,000 people.

The country had already planned to move its embassy to Jerusalem in 1994 but at the time backed down precisely due to the threat of just an Arab boycott of its cardamom industry.

This time however, the country enjoyed protection from a trade embargo by World Trade Organization regulations introduced since then.

Jovel also said that her country was increasing cooperation with Israel in the health, education and agriculture sectors. “These have always been areas where Israel has helped Guatemala with technology and development as the needs of our country have evolved.”

Guatemala has historically stood by Israel. The country’s envoy to the UN in the late 1940s, Jorge García-Granados, was a member of the 1947 UN commission that recommended the partition of the British Mandate for Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. In November of the same year, he cast the first vote recognizing Israel’s legitimacy when the UN decided in favor of the partition plan.

“Since Israel’s creation, we have played an active role in supporting and recognizing Israel as a nation,” Jovel said. “The decision announced by President (Jimmy) Morales to move our embassy to Jerusalem is completely consistent with the policies we have maintained for the past seventy years in favor of Israel.”

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