El Salvador, last nation to shut down its Jerusalem embassy, will not move back

(JTA) – El Salvador, the last nation to shut down its Jerusalem embassy, will not be moving back to the Israeli capital.

“We will not move our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem out of respect for the peace process in the Middle East and particularly Israel and Palestine,” the Central American nation’s minister of foreign affairs, Hugo Martinez, said in an interview with a local TV channel, the Spanish-language Jewish news service Aurora reported.

“Each country makes its own decision regarding foreign policy and El Salvador does not judge the determination of other countries, so we hope that the Salvadoran government will not be judged either.”

In 2006, El Salvador moved its embassy from Jerusalem in a bid to please Arab nations. One week earlier, Costa Rica had announced it would pull its diplomatic mission out of capital. So at least for a few days, El Salvador remained the only country in the world with an embassy in Jerusalem.

On Dec. 24, President Jimmy Morales of Guatemala announced that he would move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem. In a Facebook post, he said that he had instructed his country’s chancellor “to initiate the respective coordination so that it may be.” The decision followed a conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The announcement was flanked by a photo of the Guatemalan and Israeli flags fluttering side by side in the wind. The leaders, he said, spoke about “the excellent relations that we have had as nations since Guatemala supported the creation of the State of Israel. One of the most important topics was the return of the embassy of Guatemala to Jerusalem.”

Days before, the UN General Assembly passed a nonbinding resolution rejecting any recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in reaction to U.S. President Donald Trump’s pronouncement on Dec. 6 that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and begin taking steps to move its embassy there from Tel Aviv.

Guatemala was among the nine countries that voted with the United States against the resolution. Some 128 countries voted in favour and 35, including Canada, abstained.

In early 2016, El Salvador denied rumours it would close its embassy in Tel Aviv and move it to Ramallah, in the West Bank, in retaliation for Israel’s decision to close its embassy in San Salvador due to budget cuts.

El Salvador has historic ties with Israel. In addition to being the last country to move its embassy from Jerusalem, El Salvador voted in favour of the 1947 United Nations partition plan. In addition, Salvadoran diplomat José Castellanos was recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations by Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem memorial and museum for saving thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.

El Salvador is home to approximately 150 Jews in a population of 6.3 million.

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