Guatemala on Tuesday said its decision to follow the US in moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem was a “sovereign” matter that should not affect ties with other countries.

“These are Guatemala’s foreign policy and sovereign decisions,” Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel told a news conference.

“In any case, we are open to being able to converse with countries that see it as such, but I don’t believe it will create any sort of problem with other countries,” she said.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales announced that he was ordering his country’s embassy to move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, despite a UN vote last week condemning US President Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally view the holy city as Israel’s capital.

The announcement made Guatemala the first country to follow the United States in saying it was moving its embassy.

Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, while Palestinians, consider east Jerusalem as the occupied capital of their future state.

A UN General Assembly vote on Thursday resoundingly rejected any attempt to unilaterally define Jerusalem’s status.

A total of 128 nations voted to maintain the international consensus that Jerusalem’s status can only be decided through peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

The United States and Israel mustered seven other countries to their side to vote no to the UN resolution. The other nations were Guatemala, Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo.

The Palestinian foreign ministry has called Guatemala’s decision “shameful and illegal.”

Jovel told the news conference she had so far received no telephone calls “from any ambassador in relation to this issue.”

She added: “What we are doing is returning our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, where we had it for many years.”

However, the foreign minister said she did not know how long it would take before Guatemala’s embassy was in Jerusalem.

“I don’t have a time estimate for this move, but I’m not saying it will happen tomorrow.”

She also discounted the possibility of Arab countries exacting economic consequences on Guatemala for its decision – something that had happened in the past, to reverse a similar move.

A former president of Guatemala, Ramiro de Leon Carpio, who was in power 1993-1996, had made a decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem, but backtracked when Muslim-majority countries shut off access to Guatemalan goods.

Guatemala is today much more reliant on the United States, which is giving US$750 million to it and neighbouring El Salvador and Honduras to crack down on the crime and poverty that is stirring migration to the US.–AFP

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