Guatemala has opened its embassy in Jerusalem, following in the footsteps of the United States, which inaugurated its embassy in the city two days prior, in a move that has triggered international condemnation.
Wednesday’s development comes amid widespread anger and protests in the occupied Palestinian territories, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, or Catastrophe.
The event marks the day when Israel was created in the midst of a violent campaign that led to the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland.
The inauguration of the Guatemalan embassy, which was attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, also comes amid outrage over the Israeli army’s killing of 62 Palestinians protesting in the Gaza Strip on Monday.
Morales said Guatemala was sending a message of “love, peace and fraternity” to Israel amid praise from Netanyahu.
Reporting from West Jerusalem, Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett said that the Guatemalan government claimed it was not pressured by the US to move its embassy.
“The obvious calculation, however, that a lot of analysts would point to is that if Guatemala, as many Latin American countries, wants to have a good relationship with this US administration, key to it politically and economically is being as close as possible to Israel,” said Fawcett.
Guatemala, the second country to recognise Israel as a state in 1948, has had a long history of military cooperation with Israel. The latter is a major arms supplier to the central American nation.
Paraguay has said that it expects to follow suit and open its embassy in Jerusalem by the end of May. While other countries, including Honduras and the Czech Republic, have expressed interest in moving their embassies to Jerusalem, it remains unclear whether they will do so.
No country recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital until December 2017, when Trump declared it as such, breaking with decades of US policy favouring the division of Jerusalem between Israel and a future Palestinian state.
Since the 1967 war when Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the international community, as documented in a multitude of United Nations resolutions, supported the establishment of a Palestinian state on the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as the capital.
All embassies to Israel were situated in the commercial capital Tel Aviv, before the US and Guatemalan embassy moves.
The Arab League and the French government condemned the US embassy move as illegal and in contravention of UN Security Council resolutions surrounding the conflict.
The Security Council met in an emergency session on Tuesday to discuss developments in the Gaza Strip.
The US, however, blocked a statement drafted by Kuwait calling for an independent investigation into the killings of Palestinian protesters in Gaza and calling on countries not to station their diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.