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US not the first nor last embassy to open in Jerusalem

A worker installs Israeli and US flags on May 7, 2018 in front of what will become Washington's embassy in Jerusalem
AFP

Jerusalem (AFP) – When the United States opens its embassy in Jerusalem on Monday it will be the most high-profile diplomatic inauguration in the holy city, but not the first nor the last.

Several countries, mainly African and Latin American, have previously had their ambassadors based in Jerusalem and some are expected to return. 

After the 1973 Yom Kippur war, Ivory Coast, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) and Kenya severed relations with Israel in protest and closed the doors of their embassies in Jerusalem.

They later renewed relations but moved their missions to Tel Aviv.

In 1980 Israel enacted a law declaring Jerusalem, including the mainly Palestinian eastern zone, its “complete and united” capital.

The United Nations Security Council declared the move illegal and adopted a resolution calling on “those states that have established diplomatic missions at Jerusalem to withdraw such missions”.

The Netherlands, Haiti and several Latin American countries complied.

Costa Rica and El Salvador returned to Jerusalem in 1984, but left again in 2006.

In the wake of Trump’s announcement on December 6, some at least are heading back — and Israel is hoping for more.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales has said his country’s embassy will move to Jerusalem on May 16, and Paraguay’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday it would follow suit.

The Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement that Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes would attend the opening ceremony, which would take place “by the end of the month”.

Romania’s government, supported by the speaker of its parliament, has adopted a draft proposal to move its embassy, which would make it the first EU member to do so.

But Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, who has frequently clashed with the government, opposes the move in the absence of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, and has called for Prime Minister Viorica Dancila’s resignation.

On a visit to Jerusalem last month, Dancila acknowledged that at this stage she did not have “support of all parties as we would wish” to carry out the embassy move.

Czech President Milos Zeman has said he too would like to see his country’s embassy transferred to Jerusalem.

He did not reveal any firm plan, however, and the government has only announced the reopening of its honorary consulate in Jerusalem and the establishment of a Czech cultural centre in the city.

On the other side of coin, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas his country would not move its Tel Aviv embassy to Jerusalem, official Palestinian media reported.

The European Union is sticking firmly to the international community’s decades-long position that sovereignty in Jerusalem can only be decided by negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Shortly after the Trump announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to Brussels for talks with EU foreign ministers.

“I believe that all or most of the European countries will move their embassies to Jerusalem,” he told them, earning a chilly response from the bloc’s foreign policy head Federica Mogherini.

“He can keep his expectations for others, because from the European Union member states’ side this move will not come,” she said.

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