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Israel

Guatemala follows Donald Trump’s lead, opens embassy in Jerusalem 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales were among officials attending the inauguration ceremony 

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 May, 2018, 4:22pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 May, 2018, 8:56pm

Guatemala inaugurated its Israel embassy in Jerusalem on Wednesday, becoming the first country to follow in the footsteps of the United States’ deeply controversial move.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales were among officials attending an opening ceremony at the new embassy at an office park in the disputed city at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

The US and Guatemalan moves break with decades of international consensus.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the hottest controversies between Israel, which says the city is its capital, and the Palestinians, who want the eastern part of the city as their capital in any future state. 

Netanyahu profusely praised the Central American nation for making the move and noted it came only two days after the United States opened its embassy in Jerusalem.

“You were always among the first,” he said at the ceremony.

“We remember our friends and Guatemala is our friend, then and now.”

The Israeli premier said he would visit Guatemala on his next visit to Latin America.

The US embassy move on Monday was accompanied by mass protests and clashes along the Gaza border that saw Israeli forces kill 60 Palestinians.

The Gaza protesters set tires ablaze, sending up thick plumes of black smoke, and hurled firebombs and stones toward Israeli troops across the border.

The Israeli military, which has come under international criticism for firing on unarmed protesters, said Hamas militants tried to carry out bombing and shooting attacks under the cover of the protests and released video of protesters ripping away parts of the barbed-wire border fence.

US isn’t the first country to open an embassy in Jerusalem – and it won’t be the last

The heavy Palestinian death toll, along with hundreds of wounded, made it by far the bloodiest day of cross-border violence since a devastating 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.

It also triggered a diplomatic backlash against Israel. Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador and consul general and several European countries summoned the Israeli ambassadors to their foreign ministries for questioning and called for an international investigation.

At the same time, Israel has found other nations following the US lead and rallying to its defence. Besides Guatemala, Paraguay said it would also relocate its embassy to Jerusalem and Romania, the Czech Republic and Honduras have said they are considering doing the same.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press