Honduras considers Jerusalem embassy move after pressure from US, Israel

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 02.01.2019 23:20
Updated 03.01.2019 08:00

Honduras will hold talks with Israel, joined by the United States, aimed at opening an embassy in Jerusalem, the countries said on Tuesday, as the small Central American nation looks to follow U.S. President Donald Trump's much-criticized move.

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez held a meeting in the Brazilian capital on the sidelines of the inauguration of right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. In yesterday's statement, Netanyahu's office said the meeting dealt with the opening of the Honduran Embassy in Jerusalem and an Israeli embassy in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa. According to the statement, the talks on moving the Honduran Embassy to Jerusalem were first discussed during a visit by Netanyahu's wife Sara to Guatemala last December. The statement, which was cited by The Times of Israel newspaper, said the meeting "discussed advancing the opening of the two embassies in Jerusalem and Honduras."

The right-leaning Hernandez is the latest leader to consider following Trump's decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city of Jerusalem, which infuriated Palestinians and drew international condemnation. Trump has repeatedly threatened to cut off aid to Honduras, a poor nation of less than 10 million people, over caravans of migrants crossing Mexico heading for the U.S. border.

In recent months, the Palestinian Authority, the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have called upon countries not to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel nor transferring their embassies to the occupied city. Turkey has been one of the most vocal critics of the U.S. move. At an extraordinary summit held in Istanbul last May, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as the rotating chairman of OIC, issued a strong message to the Israeli government while calling on all 196 countries to display a united response to the U.S. decision.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest disputes between Israel and Palestine and Palestinian leaders accused Trump of sowing instability by overturning decades of U.S. policy. Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in a move that is not internationally recognized. Most foreign nations have avoided locating embassies there for fear of prejudging peace talks on the city's final status. According to Israeli media, other countries are expected to open embassies in Jerusalem in the near future, including Guatemala, Paraguay and the Czech Republic. Poised to follow the U.S. president in his most radical foreign policy position, Brazil's far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, last year, vowed to become the next country to follow and move its embassy to Jerusalem. Guatemala, another country seeking closer U.S. ties, quickly joined Trump's decision and moved its embassy to Jerusalem just two days after the U.S. opened offices in May. Paraguay also followed, but a new government backtracked in September.

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