US urges Paraguay to rethink decision to return Israel embassy to Tel Aviv

US urges Paraguay to rethink decision to return Israel embassy to Tel Aviv
The White House has said that the US vice president has urged Paraguay's leader to reconsider his surprise decision to move his country's embassy from Jerusalem.
2 min read
07 September, 2018
Mike Pence spoke to Paraguay's president in a phone conversation [Getty]

US Vice President Mike Pence has urged Paraguay to rethink a decision to move its embassy in Israel from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv, the White House said on Thursday.

Paraguay's new president, Mario Abdo Benitez, infuriated the Israeli government on Wednesday by announcing South American state would be returning its Israel embassy to Tel Aviv - just three months after moving to Jerusalem.

The move has caused consternation in the US government, which controversially moved its own diplomatic mission in Israel to Jerusalem in May. 

In a readout of a call on Wednesday between the two men, the White House said Pence had "strongly encouraged" Abdo Benitez to stick to "Paraguay's previous commitment to move the embassy as a sign of the historic relationship the country has maintained with both Israel and the United States".

"President Abdo Benitez underscored Paraguay's lasting partnership with Israel and the leaders agreed to work towards achieving a comprehensive and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," it added.

There were no details in the statement about how Abdo Benitez had responded to Pence's request regarding the embassy.

The surprise announcement from Abdo Benitez - who only came to power in mid-August - prompted Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to order the closure of Israel's embassy in Paraguay's capital, Asuncion.

The Trump administration broke with decades of US policy on Jerusalem by moving its diplomatic mission in Israel to Jerusalem on 14 May. The US government hoped that the move would encourage other states to follow its example. Most foreign embassies in Israel have remained in Tel Aviv.

Following Paraguay's embassy announcement, the US and Guatemala will be the only states to have embassies to Israel in Jerusalem.

While the Israeli government is largely based in Jerusalem and regards the city as its "undisputed and undivided capital", diplomatic missions are still almost entirely based in Tel Aviv.

Most foreign governments have indicated that they will only recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital as part of a comprehensive solution to the conflict with the Palestinians who also want the city - they call al-Quds - to be the capital of their promised future state.