Paraguay slams Israel's 'exaggerated' reaction to embassy move
The diplomatic dispute began in May when outgoing President Horacio Cartes authorised moving the Paraguayan Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following in the footsteps of the United States and Guatemala.
The move pleased Israel and Washington but infuriated the Palestinians and their supporters. Cartes' decision was a controversial one domestically and was criticised within Paraguay.
Abdo Benitez, who won Paraguay's election in April but had yet to take office when Cartes announced the move in one of his final acts as president, had said he would review the decision.
On Wednesday, he said he would reverse it and move the embassy back to Tel Aviv, a decision applauded by Palestinian leaders and supporters of Palestine across the world.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu immediately ordered the closure of the Israeli Embassy in Asuncion.
"I regret Israel's decision. The reaction of closing the embassy was a little exaggerated and we urge authorities to reconsider it," Abdo Benitez said at a news conference in Itapua, 273 miles (440 kilometers) south of Asuncion.
He said Paraguay would "stick to international law and the United Nations' resolution that still considers it a territory in conflict" between Israel and the Palestinians.
US Vice President Mike Pence spoke with Abdo Benitez on Wednesday and "strongly encouraged" the Paraguayan leader to follow through with its previous commitment to move the embassy to Jerusalem, according to a White House statement.