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Guatemala reportedly scouts Jerusalem embassy locations

Guatemala will relocate its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem this May, two days after the United States shifts its mission, the Latin American country's president announced
GIL COHEN-MAGEN (AFP/File)
A senior PLO official said Guatemala's move violates international law and 'undermines the chances of peace'

Guatemala's ambassador to Israel was spotted in a Jerusalem real estate agency on Monday, just hours after the country's president announced a moving date for shifting its mission from Tel Aviv, as a senior Palestinian official branded the move "dangerous and provocative."

A Reuters journalist sighted Ambassador Sara Castaneda looking at properties with a realtor just across the road from the US consulate in the holy city, a report by the news agency said. An Israeli diplomat reportedly confirmed that Castaneda was searching for potential embassy locations.

President Jimmy Morales announced during a speech at the annual convention of the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC on Sunday night that on May 16 the Central American country would be the first to follow the US by moving its embassy to the holy city.

Currently, all foreign embassies in Israel are located in Tel Aviv and its surrounds, until the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians over the city is resolved.

In December US President Donald Trump upended Washington's adherence to the same policy by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and ordered that the embassy be relocated there.

As the Guatemalan ambassador was scouting new digs, the Palestinian Liberation Organization blasted her president's decision.

NICHOLAS KAMM (AFP)

“By taking such a step that defies international law, Mr Morales, also besieged at home by charges of corruption and abuse of power, has partnered with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump in violating international law and undermining the chances of peace," PLO Executive Committee Member Dr Hanan Ashrawi said.

She added that it was a "dangerous and provocative announcement."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales earlier on Sunday in Washington ahead of AIPAC’s kickoff.

"Thank you for everything you're doing, for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. I hope soon you will move your embassy to Jerusalem; we hope."

Morales replied, "It is an honor and it is the right thing to do."

Over the weekend, Guatemala's Constitutional Court rejected a local lawyer's attempt to prevent the government from moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The high court's five magistrates turned down a request from lawyer Marco Vinicio Mejia, who argued in a petition filed in January that the embassy move was contrary to international law.

Only seven small countries -- including Guatemala and Honduras -- sided with the United States and Israel on a nonbinding December 21 UN General Assembly resolution rejecting Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

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