Diplomatic source: No move in works to counter Paraguay embassy reversal

Paraguayan Foreign Minister claims the country will remain “loyal friend of Israel”

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September 6, 2018 20:59
2 minute read.
Paraguayan elected President Mario Abdo Benitez smiles while arriving in Asuncion (June 23, 2018).

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)

 
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The movement of another country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would be the best way to contain negative fallout from Paraguay’s decision on Wednesday to move its embassy back to Tel Aviv, a senior diplomatic source said on Thursday.

At this point, he added, that is not happening.

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The source said that Israel was not taken by surprise by the move, and that in recent days there were signals from Asunción that the new President Mario Abdo Benítez would make this move.

When his predecessor Horacio Cartes, who left office on August 15, decided to move the embassy in May, Abdo said he was not consulted.

Cartes lashed out at his successor, staining an angry tweet on Thursday that the move back to Tel Aviv was a betrayal of Judeo-Christian values.

“Today he betrayed a friend!: he wrote. “Today [he] betrayed the will and sentiment of the Paraguayan people! Today the friendship between PARAGUAY and ISRAEL was betrayed.” He wrote that those who “turned their backs on Israel” pay a price.

Following Paraguay’s decision, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the foreign ministry to close Israel’s embassy in Asunción.

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Paraguay’s Foreign Minister Luis Alberto Castiglioni said in a newspaper interview that his country regretted Netanyahu’s decision, and believes it was “exaggerated and extremely hasty.”

He said that while Paraguay intends to remain a “loyal friend of Israel,” it needed to “recover the sense of a predictable and serious country in the conduct of its foreign policy.”

He said with this move back to Tel Aviv, Paraguay was complying with international law and United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Castigilioni said that “the conduct of international relations can not and will not be done according to the personal or group interests of anyone,” including Cartes.

He said that Cartes “mixed things up” in his tweet when he talked about the betraying the will of the Paraguayan people, saying that “there was never a referendum to decide on the transfer” of the embassy to Jerusalem in the first place.

At the same time, Castiglioni stressed in a local radio interview that the closure of the embassy does not mean a break in ties with Israel, and that the commercial- economic relations between the two countries would not be affected.

In 2015, Paraguay exported $104 million worth of goods to Israel, mostly frozen meat, and enjoyed a $100 million trade surplus with the country.

Israel’s interests in Paraguay will now be served either by its ambassador in Argentina or Brazil.

Israel closed its embassy in Asunción in 2002, citing budgetary considerations, only to open it again in 2015.

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