Paraguay moves embassy to Jerusalem, after U.S. and Guatemala

Paraguay opened its new embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, following in the footsteps of the United States and Guatemala.

3 more countries say they are also considering moving their diplomatic missions

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaks with Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes during their meeting in Jerusalem on Monday, as Paraguay opened its new embassy there. (Sebastian Scheiner/Pool/AP)

Paraguay opened its new embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, following in the footsteps of the United States and Guatemala.

President Horacio Cartes dedicated the embassy, making Paraguay the third country to transfer its diplomatic mission in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Romania, the Czech Republic and Honduras have said they are also considering doing the same.

Paraguay operated an embassy in the Jerusalem suburb of Mevasseret Zion until closing it in 2002. It reopened an embassy in Israel in 2014, this time in a suburb of Tel Aviv.

Other countries over the years have had their embassies in Jerusalem — at least 16 of them at one point in the early 1970s — but none did so when the U.S. moved its legation to the city on May 14. 

President Donald Trump's announcement in December that he intended to move the U.S. embassy was welcomed by the Israeli government but infuriated Palestinians, who claim Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem as their future capital. Critics say countries that locate their diplomatic missions in Jerusalem legitimate Israel's occupation of lands, including East Jerusalem, it captured in the Six Day War in 1967.

The U.S. embassy move added fuel to the weekly Palestinian protests in Gaza demanding the right of return to Israel and the lifting of a decade-old naval blockade. The protests culminated last Monday, when Israeli forces killed nearly 60 Palestinians in clashes along the border.

But the U.S. embassy move has also sparked others to rally in support of Israel.

The entrance to Jerusalem was lined with the flags of Paraguay in anticipation of Monday's ceremony and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was there to "salute" a great friend.

The opening of the embassy was "a great day for Israel, a great day for Paraguay, a great day for our friendship," Netanyahu said.

With files from CBC News