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(photo credit: AP [file])
It sounds like the answer to a trivia question: Name the only country in the world that recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Most would be hard-pressed to guess, but the surprising answer to the question is El Salvador.
The Central American country became the only country in the world with an embassy in Israel's capital on Wednesday, when Costa Rica announced it was moving its embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.
Israel annexed eastern Jerusalem after capturing it from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War and claims all of the city as its capital. The Palestinians want to establish their capital in the eastern sector of the city. Most countries don't recognize the annexation of east Jerusalem.
Costa Rica's president, Oscar Arias, said Wednesday the move was needed to bring the Central American nation in line with international law and mend relations with Arab nations.
"We regret this decision by the government of Costa Rica," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev. "For many years, Israel and Costa Rica had a very special relationship."
Foreign Ministry officials said they were surprised by the timing of the decision, coming immediately after the cease-fire in Lebanon. They warned that Costa Rica's step would be interpreted as a "surrender" and "a prize" for terrorism.
"Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel and the Jewish people and nothing will change our position on this issue," a Foreign Ministry official said. "We have heard positive messages from El Salvador that it is important for them to keep their embassy in Jerusalem."
Vice Premier Shimon Peres, who is a close friend of Arias, called him and tried unsuccessfully to change his mind. Asked whether they were taking steps to convince other countries to move their embassies to Israel's capital, a Foreign Ministry official said, "We have been trying for 20 years."
Costa Rica moved its embassy to Jerusalem in 1982 under then-president Luis Alberto Monge, leading the nations of the Arab League to break off relations with Costa Rica. El Salvador established its embassy in Jerusalem in 1984.
Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said his country would continue to have close ties with Israel but that Costa Rica needed to respect international law.
"Until today, we were the only country in the world, together with El Salvador, to have an embassy in Jerusalem," Arias said. "Even Israel's closest allies have preferred not to challenge international law by locating their embassies there."
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