WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Vice President Mike Pence has urged Paraguay to rethink a decision to move its embassy in Israel from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv, the White House said on Thursday.
Paraguay’s new President Mario Abdo Benitez infuriated the Israeli government on Wednesday by announcing that the embassy — which only opened for business in Jerusalem in May — would return to Tel Aviv, where most diplomatic missions are based.
But the announcement also caused consternation within the US government, which relocated its own embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May and has been hoping that other countries would follow its example.
In a readout of a call on Wednesday between the two men, the White House said Pence had “strongly encouraged” Abdo Benitez to stick to “Paraguay’s previous commitment to move the embassy as a sign of the historic relationship the country has maintained with both Israel and the United States.”
“President Abdo Benitez underscored Paraguay’s lasting partnership with Israel and the leaders agreed to work towards achieving a comprehensive and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” it added.
There were no details in the statement about how Abdo Benitez had responded to Pence’s specific request of rethinking the embassy move.
Pence’s boss Donald Trump broke with decades of US policy by moving the American embassy to Jerusalem on May 14, but Guatemala has so far been the only other country to follow suit apart from Paraguay.
The surprise announcement from Abdo Benitez — who only came to power in mid-August — prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to order the closure of Israel’s embassy in Paraguay’s capital Asuncion.
While the Israeli government is largely based in Jerusalem and regards the city as the “undisputed and undivided capital” of the Jewish state, diplomatic missions are still almost entirely based in Tel Aviv.
Most foreign governments have indicated that they will only recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as part of a comprehensive solution to the conflict with the Palestinians who also want the city they call Al-Quds to be the capital of their promised future state.