GUATEMALA CITY–Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales said on Sunday he had given instructions to move the Central American country’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a few days after his government backed the United States in its decision to move its embassy.
In a short post on his official Facebook account, Morales said he decided to move the embassy to Jerusalem after talking to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday.
This month, U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, acting on the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act which mandated moving the embassy. The move was a promise made by past U.S. presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, but it was never carried out.
I fulfilled my campaign promise – others didn’t! pic.twitter.com/bYdaOHmPVJ
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2017
The status of Jerusalem – home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions – is one of the thorniest obstacles to forging a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as their capital.
According to the BBC, President Trump plans to pursue a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, which will be led by his son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner.
Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy does not mean that U.S. policy will be designed to favour Israel, an administration official told BBC. The move is is “a recognition of reality” by the US government.
The status of holy sites in the city will not be affected, a U.S. official told BBC.
The construction of the embassy could take several years.
128 countries voted to back a non-binding U.N. General Assembly resolution calling for the U.S. to drop its recognition of Jerusalem. 35 countries abstained and another 21 countries were absent from voting.
66 nations pic.twitter.com/rbH2kZxrPW
— Aryeh Leib (@IsaacBink) December 21, 2017
Guatemala and neighboring Honduras were two of only a handful of countries to join the U.S. and Israel in voting against the resolution on Jerusalem.
The U.S. is an important source of assistance to Guatemala and Honduras, and Trump had threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that supported the U.N. resolution.
Morales, a former television comedian with an important base of conservative Christian support, earlier this year became embroiled in a bitter spat with the U.N. when a U.N.-backed anti-corruption body in Guatemala tried to impeach him.
Although Morales avoided impeachment, he failed in an attempt to expel the head of the body, the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala.
By Bill Barreto
Additional reporting by Melanie Sun