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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Paraguay moves Israel embassy back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem

PM Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the closure of Israel’s embassy in Paraguay in response
Paraguayan foreign minister Luis Alberto Castiglioni announces the return of its embassy to Tel Aviv. EPA/Alejandro R Otero

Paraguay’s government has said it is moving its embassy in Israel out of Jerusalem and back to Tel Aviv, less than four months after opening the new mission.

Foreign minister Luis Alberto Castiglioni announced on Wednesday that the government had decided to take the action immediately.

Earlier this year the then president Horacio Cartes made Paraguay only the third country to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem, opening the mission on May 21. But new president Mario Abdo Benitez, who took office in mid-August, opposed the shift.

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Mr Benitez, whose father is of Lebanese descent, took the decision to return the embassy to Tel Aviv "to contribute to the intensification of regional and international diplomatic efforts that aim to achieve a broad, just and durable peace in the Middle East".

In response to the move, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the closure of his country’s embassy in Paraguay, his office said.

“The prime minister has asked the foreign ministry to close the Israeli embassy in Paraguay,” the statement said, adding Paraguay’s decision had cast a shadow on relations between the two countries.

A delighted Palestinian foreign ministry said that Paraguay had pledged to return the embassy two weeks ago during a visit by foreign minister Riad Al Maliki to the south American country.

Mr Al Maliki had pushed Mr Benitez to return his country’s embassy to Tel Aviv, the Palestinian foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

It hailed the announcement as “a new Palestinian diplomatic achievement” and said “minister Maliki exerted a big effort during his meeting with the new president who instructed his foreign minister to arrange the issue.”