Two South American countries cosy up to Israel with shock Jerusalem pledges

Two South American countries cosy up to Israel with shock Jerusalem pledges
3 min read
17 August, 2023
Israel FM Eli Cohen said this week that two South American countries had plans to open diplomatic offices or embassies in Jerusalem.
More South American states are considering a diplomatic presence in Jerusalem [Getty]

Uruguay looks set to open a diplomatic office in Jerusalem, Israel's foreign minister has said, just a day after it was announced that Paraguay would break with international consensus and move its embassy to the city.

Eli Cohen said Wednesday that he met Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou in Montevideo and invited the South American leader to open a diplomatic office in Jerusalem. 

Uruguay is yet to confirm Cohen's announcement and the opening of the office, which would not break with international consensus on the status of Jerusalem per se but would signal closer ties between the two countries.

"We're continuing to strengthen the international status of Israel's capital," Cohen said in a statement.

"Uruguay is one of Israel's most important friends in Latin America, and the president's decision to open an innovation office in Jerusalem will advance economic and trade ties between us."

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It follows Cohen's shock revelation this week that Paraguay would re-open its embassy in Jerusalem - a precedent set by former President Donald Trump, who in 2018 announced that the US embassy would be relocated from Tel Aviv to the city.

The embassy move was an election promise of right-wing Paraguay President Santiago Pena, who was only sworn in on Tuesday.

Argentina's populist presidential candidate Javier Milei announced this week that he would also move the country's embassy to Jerusalem if elected.

Eighty-nine of the 94 embassies in Israel are situated in the coastal city of Tel Aviv, and only four are in Jerusalem - those of Guatemala, Honduras, Kosovo, and the US.

Most countries, including the UK, view no country as having full sovereignty over Jerusalem.

Israel, which has controlled the western sector of the holy city since 1948 and occupied East Jerusalem since 1967, views the city as its "undivided capital".

It has urged allies to recognise their claims to the city by opening embassies and diplomatic missions in Jerusalem with a multi-million dollar fund approved by the Israeli Knesset to subsidise the moves.

Israel has denied claims it offers money or its influence with the US to encourage states - particularly developing ones - to recognise Israel or open diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.

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Uruguay's Israel embassy was situated in Jerusalem until 1980 when Israel annexed the east, which Palestinians want as the capital of their future state.

East Jerusalem is viewed by the UN and others as occupied Palestinian territory.

Latin American governments tend to have strong views on Palestine and Israel, split down a left-right axis.

Socialist countries Cuba and Venezuela are traditional supporters of the Palestinian cause, while Paraguay and other countries with right-wing governments generally favour Israel.