FM of El Salvador to visit Jerusalem

Israel to ask Francisco Lainez to return country's embassy to the capital.

May 13, 2007 00:17
2 minute read.
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El Salvador's Foreign Minister Francisco Lainez, who will arrive for an official visit on Monday, will be asked by various government officials to return his country's embassy to Jerusalem. El Salvador and Costa Rica, which were the only two countries maintaining embassies in Israel's capital, moved them out last year - El Salvador to Herzliya, and Costa Rica to Tel Aviv. El Salvador's President El as Antonio Saca Gonz lez, who is of Palestinian descent, told the United Nations General Assembly last September: "We are fully convinced that one of the keys to progress towards peace in the Middle East is the disarmament of all armed groups operating outside the law and government control in the region, as well as the exercise by governments of full sovereignty over their territories." After a careful analysis of the Middle East situation, Gonzalez said, El Salvador had decided to move its embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. According to Gonzalez, his country hoped that the move would "make a contribution to promoting the peace process and serve as an expression of our commitment [to] United Nations resolutions." "We also wish to express our feelings of solidarity and friendship to the Palestinian people. They can rely on El Salvador to continue to seek peace, security and well-being for the Palestinian people," Gonzalez said. Apart from fielding requests to move his embassy back to the capital, Lainez will spend most of his visit to Israel in Jerusalem, where he will meet with Acting President and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. The foreign minister's itinerary will include a visit to Yad Vashem, a standard stop for foreign dignitaries. But in his case, the museum will be of special significance, as El Salvador saved the lives of thousands of European Jews during the Holocaust. Although exact figures are not known, between 30,000 and 50,000 Jewish refugees were saved in what became known as the El Salvador action. The two figures most closely involved in the rescue operation were Col. Jose Arturo Castellanos, El Salvador's consul-general in Geneva, and his First Secretary of the Consulate, George Mantello, an Orthodox Jew from Beszterce, Transylvania. Formerly a textile merchant in Bucharest, Mantello fled the Nazis in 1941 and found refuge in Switzerland. The Swiss government agreed to protect anyone who had been issued papers that indicated that he or she was a citizen of El Salvador. Mantello contacted his friend Castellanos and had no difficulty persuading him to issue papers that Jews could use to get out of war-torn Europe. In 1944, El Salvador Foreign Minister Julio Enrique also became involved with the operation, and meanwhile, Mantello had persuaded diplomats in other consulates and embassies to distribute the citizenship papers to Jews in various parts of Europe. Lainez will discuss his country's action at a press conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday, the 40th anniversary of Jerusalem's reunification.

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