Paraguayan elected President Mario Abdo Benitez smiles while arriving for the beatification of Maria Felicia de Jesus Sacramento, known as Chiquitunga in Asuncion, Paraguay (June 23, 2018)..
(photo credit: REUTERS/JORGE ADORNO)
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat traveled to Paraguay on Monday to attend the inauguration of new President Mario Abdo Benitez, a sign of appreciation for Asunción moving its embassy to Jerusalem in May.
Paraguay’s outgoing President Horacio Cartes took the decision to move the embassy, and came to Jerusalem for its inauguration. Benitez, the grandson of a Lebanese immigrant, said at the time that he was not consulted about the move.
According to his office, Barkat – who met Cartes in Jerusalem – will meet with both Cartes and Benitez and discuss “strengthening ties between the two countries and the continuation of many existing collaborations.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the opening of the embassy, said that Israel remembers its friends, and has no better friend than Paraguay. He said that it was now time for cooperation between the two countries to “flow like water.”
Before leaving for Paraguay, Barkat said it was a “great honor” to accept Netanyahu’s request to represent Israel at the swearing-in ceremony.
“At the opening of the Paraguayan Embassy in Jerusalem, I spoke with the outgoing President about developing economic cooperation between our two countries and I look forward to strengthening Paraguay’s special relationship with the State of Israel with the president-elect,” he said.
Barkat’s departure for Paraguay comes fast on the heels of Colombia’s surprise decision – taken just days before outgoing president Juan Manuel Santos left office – to recognize the ‘State of Palestine.” That move came just days after Netanyahu canceled a trip to Colombia to take part in the swearing-in ceremony of the country’s new president, Ivan Duque.
In other developments in South America regarding Israel, Argentina on Friday issued a statement squarely placing the blame for the violence in Gaza on Hamas’s shoulders.
“The Argentine Republic expresses its deep concern over the recent escalation of violence in Gaza, caused by the launch of rockets towards Israel, and calls for peace and the avoidance of violence,” the statement read.
“The Argentine Government reiterates the pressing need for the peace process to be resumed in order to reach a fair and lasting solution, so that the State of Israel can exist peacefully alongside its neighbors, within secure and internationally recognized borders, and the Palestinian people can establish a sovereign, independent and viable State based on the 1967 borders and in accordance with the agreements reached by the parties in the negotiation process,” it continued.
Israeli-Argentinian ties have improved significantly since President Mauricio Macri came to power in 2015. Netanyahu met with Macri last year in Buenos Aires, during his trip to Latin America, the first ever by a sitting Israeli prime minister.
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