Following U.S., Guatemala opens embassy in Jerusalem

By Susan McFarland  |  Updated May 16, 2018 at 10:13 AM
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May 16 (UPI) -- Guatemala on Wednesday became just the second country to open an embassy in Jerusalem, a few days after the controversial relocation of the U.S. consulate there.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales said the move delivers a message of "love, peace and fraternity" in Israel.

"This is an important moment for the future of our peoples," Morales said, calling the move a "courageous decision."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Guatemala's relocation is fitting because the Central American nation was similarly the second country to recognize Israel upon its establishment in 1948, also following the United States.

"You are always among the first. We remember our friends and Guatemala is our friend, then and now," Netanyahu said. "This is the beginning of something extraordinary, or I would say, the re-beginning of something extraordinary, which is the relationship between Guatemala and Israel."

President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital in december, saying the move was made to pursue peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As part of his decision, Trump said the U.S. Embassy would move from Tel Aviv.

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Guatemala was also one of seven countries to side with the Trump administration and Israel in a United Nations vote regarding the move. Others were Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo.

Guatemala's move follows protests this week that marked the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, when thousands of Palestinians fled from their homeland upon Israel's creation in 1948.

At least 52 Palestinians were killed in protests on the Gaza-Israel border -- including five children under the age of 18.

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