Israel Closes Embassy in Paraguay After South American Nation Reverses Jerusalem Move

Alexander Petrov left and Ruslan Boshirov right were charged by British prosecutors with the nerve agent poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also the foreign minister, ordered the closure of Israel's embassy in Paraguay on Wednesday hours after the Latin American nation said it had made a decision to return its embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.

"Paraguay wants to contribute to an intensification of regional diplomatic efforts to achieve a broad, fair and lasting peace in the Middle East", Paraguayan Foreign Minister Luis Alberto Castiglioni told the media.

President Horacio Cartes, a close friend of Israel, was behind the embassy move that marked his country's celebration of Israel's 70th anniversary.

The Palestinians said the latest "diplomatic achievement" was the fruit of lobbying efforts by their officials.

"Israel views with great severity the exception decision of Paraguay", Netanyahu said in a statement, adding that it will "cloud relations between the two country".

Only minutes after the shocking announcement, in a tit-for-tat move, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the Foreign Ministry to shutter its embassy in Paraguay's capital Asunción and recalled ambassador Ze'ev Harel for consultation.

The move comes as Paraguay joins the effort to bring peace to the Middle East.

New Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez had opposed the switch even before taking office on August 15.

Netanyahu also praised Paraguay's decades-long support of the Jewish people, including helping Jews escape Nazi Germany, Paraguay's support of the creation of the State of Israel and its recognition of the State of Israel at the United Nations. Guatemala and then Paraguay opened embassies there afterward.

Announcing the move, his government said it considered the return to Tel Aviv "appropriate", but Netanyahu's office replied that the decision had cast a shadow on relations between the two countries.

The move presents an embarrassing diplomatic setback for Israel, which had hoped to build on the momentum started by the U.S., Guatemala and Paraguay, which all moved their embassies to Jerusalem in May.

"This is also time for the Trump administration to realize that no peace-loving country will follow their decision to recognize Jerusalem [al-Quds] as Israel's capital". "Only respecting worldwide law and United Nations resolutions will help to achieve a just and lasting peace".

"It can not be a coincidence that as Paraguay announces this decision, the Palestinian Authority celebrates and declares it will open an "embassy" in Asunción".

However, the Palestinian Authority said it would "immediately" open an embassy in the South American country.

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