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Israeli FM heads to Paraguay for presidential inauguration

The Latin American country is set to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen seen during an interview at the ministry in Jerusalem, June 12, 2023. Photo by Yossi Aloni/Flash90.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen seen during an interview at the ministry in Jerusalem, June 12, 2023. Photo by Yossi Aloni/Flash90.

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is traveling to Paraguay to attend Tuesday’s inauguration of President-elect Santiago Peña, the ministry in Jerusalem announced.

The Latin American visit by Israel’s top diplomat, which is the first in over a decade, and a scheduled meeting with the president immediately after his inauguration, comes as Paraguay is poised to return its embassy to Jerusalem. The Israeli will also meet with the country’s foreign minister.

Cohen is then scheduled to travel to Uruguay and meet with the country’s President Luis Lacalle Pou and Foreign Minister Francisco Bustillo.

The inauguration in the Paraguayan capital of Asunción will be attended by regional and world leaders, including the King Felipe VI of Spain and the presidents of Brazil and Argentina.

Peña, who has pledged to move the embassy back to Israel’s capital, is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York next month.

Netanyahu called Peña in May to congratulate him on his electoral victory. The president-elect told the premier he plans to relocate the embassy immediately after his inauguration.

Last week, Paraguayan Sen. Gustavo Leite told JNS that “all things were in place” for the embassy move.

Paraguay previously moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018, following then-President Donald Trump’s lead and becoming the third country to do so after the United States and Guatemala.

However, months later, a new Paraguayan president returned the embassy to Tel Aviv, setting off a diplomatic crisis with Israel. The surprise decision led Israel to shutter its embassy in Paraguay, citing harm the Paraguayan move had caused to bilateral relations.

During this year’s election campaign, Peña pledged that he would return the embassy to Jerusalem.

“The State of Israel recognizes Jerusalem as its capital,” he said in March. “The seat of the parliament is in Jerusalem, the president is in Jerusalem. So who are we to question where they establish their own capital?”

Four countries currently have their embassies in Israel’s capital: the United States, Guatemala, Honduras and Kosovo.

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