Guatemala City (AFP) – Guatemalan Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel defended Tuesday her country’s “sovereign” decision to relocate its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“We are doing the right thing in accordance with the foreign policy that Guatemala has had toward Israel over the past 70 years,” Jovel said at a press conference.
The controversial move is “a sovereign decision of Guatemalan foreign policy,” she said.
President Jimmy Morales told a cheering crowd at the annual meeting of the pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobby in Washington on Sunday that Guatemala’s mission would be moved “two days after the United States moves its embassy” to Jerusalem.
The White House plans to open its new facility in Jerusalem on May 14, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s creation. Guatemala’s embassy would therefore move on May 16.
Trump’s decision in December to transfer the US embassy to the disputed city has drawn widespread condemnation, with critics saying it damages hopes for a negotiated Middle East peace.
Morales quickly followed Trump, making Guatemala the first country to do so.
Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.
The international consensus has long been that the city’s status should be settled as part of a two-state peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
Only seven small countries — including Guatemala and Honduras — sided with the United States and Israel on a non-binding December 21 UN General Assembly resolution rejecting Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Jovel said that she “respects the opinion” of countries opposing Guatemala’s decision.
Last week, a Guatemalan court rejected the request from a local lawyer to halt the move, arguing that it broke international law.