Paraguay embassy to relocate too
• Anti-Israeli protests in Turkey, Cyprus
Guatemala inaugurated its Israel embassy in Jerusalem yesterday, becoming the first country to follow in the footsteps of the United States’ deeply controversial move that was accompanied by deadly violence on the Gaza border.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales were among officials who attended a ceremony inaugurating the new embassy at an office park in the disputed city, which is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The US and Guatemalan moves break with decades of international consensus. US ambassador to Israel David Friedman also attended yesterday’sceremony. Previously Guatemala’s embassy was in Herzliya, just north of Tel Aviv like that of Paraguay, so far the only other mission with immediate plans to move to Jerusalem.
Paraguay’s embassy is expected to relocate before the end of the month. Netanyahu profusely praised Guatemala for making the move and noted it came only two days after the United States opened its embassy in Jerusalem.
The move is also seen by some as a gesture to elicit US support at a time when Morales stands accused by Guatemalan prosecutors of accepting illegal campaign contributions. Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat made reference to those allegations in a scathing attack yesterday.
“The Guatemalan government has chosen to stand on the wrong side of history, to side with violations of international law and human rights, and to take a hostile step against the Palestinian people and the Arab world,” he wrote in a statement. We are not surprised that a president that has objected to UN investigations into corruption and abuses of power has decided to further violate international resolutions,” Erekat said.
Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim also said that Muslim countries should review their ties with Israel after Monday’s violence. There have been demonstrations against Israel in Istanbul and in the capital Ankara. Erdogan, who is campaigning for presidential and parliamentary elections next month, said a rally will be held on Friday to protest the killings.
Turkish government spokesman Bekir Bozdag told parliament the rally “will once again show that the Turkish people will not remain silent in the face of injustice and cruelty, that they defend the victims in the face of the cruel”.
The plight of Palestinians resonates with many Turks, including with the nationalist and religious voters who form the base of Erdogan’s support. Bozdag said that Turkey held the United States equally accountable for Monday’s violence.
“The blood of innocent Palestinians is on the hands of the United States,” he said. “The United States is part of the problem, not the solution”. Relations between Ankara and Washington, two NATO allies, have been deeply strained over the embassy move, disagreements over military deployment in north Syria, and court cases against Turkish and U.S. nationals in each country.
In another development, more than 200 Palestinian and Cypriot left-wing protesters staged a peaceful march to the Israeli Embassy in the Cypriot capital to condemn what they say is Israel’s aggression against Palestinians and the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem.