Honduras to move embassy to Jerusalem by end of 2020
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, meets with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez in Jerusalem on October 29, 2015. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Honduras will move its embassy to Jerusalem this year, and Israel will open an embassy in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement released early Monday.

The two new embassies will open by the end of 2020, the statement said.

The announcement followed a Sunday conversation between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernåndez.

"With their flags flying in the capitals of the two countries, Israel and Honduras declare their intention to complete the action plan before the end of the current year, with a mutual opening and inauguration of their embassies in the national capitals, Tegucigalpa and Jerusalem," the statement said.

The statement from the Prime Minister's Office said it was a joint announcement from the two countries, but Hernández issued a more tepid statement on Twitter, writing, "We hope to take this historic step before the end of the year, as long as the pandemic allows it." The reason for the discrepancy was not immediately clear.

Israel opened a representative office in the Honduran capital last month.

Honduras has the second-largest population of Palestinians in Latin America, after Chile.

Mattanya Cohen, Israel's ambassador to Honduras and Guatemala, told Army Radio on Monday morning, "They told me there's no chance that Honduras will move its embassy because there is a large Palestinian community there. I didn't give up. We started with quiet contacts behind the scenes, with ministers, with parliament members, and the community."

Hernández during their phone call congratulated Netanyahu on the normalization agreements signed by Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain last week, which he called a "revolution of peace in the region," the statement said.

Netanyahu vowed to strengthen the "true friendship" between the two countries with tourism, investments, technology, agriculture, education and trade.

So far, only the US and Guatemala operate full-fledged embassies in Jerusalem. A number of countries operate trade, defense or cultural missions in the city, including Honduras, Colombia, Brazil, Australia, Hungary.

Honduras recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital in August, 2019, and a month later opened a commercial office in Jerusalem as an extension to Honduras' embassy in Rishon Lezion.

In January, Honduras officially declared Hezbollah a terrorist organization in a move praised by Jerusalem.

US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital in late 2017 and officially moved the US embassy there in 2018, sparking a deterioration in relations with the Palestinians. Guatemala followed suit soon after.

Moving an embassy to Jerusalem is highly contentious. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, while Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Most diplomatic missions in Israel are situated in or near Tel Aviv as countries try to maintain a neutral stance over the status of Jerusalem.

The announcement on Honduras follows several other diplomatic breakthroughs for Jerusalem.

The foreign ministers of the UAE and Bahrain signed the so-called Abraham Accords in a White House ceremony with Netanyahu last week. The only Arab states Israel previously had official ties with were Egypt and Jordan.

Numerous Arab states have been named as potential candidates to follow the UAE and Bahrain in agreeing to establish ties with Israel, including Morocco, Sudan and Oman. On Friday, Trump, after meeting with the son of Kuwait's ruling emir, said that the country will likely normalize relations with Israel in the near future.

Earlier this month, Serbia announced it would move its embassy to Jerusalem, and Muslim-majority Kosovo said it would recognize Israel. Netanyahu said Kosovo would also move its embassy to Jerusalem, becoming the first Muslim-majority country to do so.

One day after the declarations by Serbia and Kosovo, the new president of Malawi, Lazarus Chakwera, announced plans to open a diplomatic office in Jerusalem.

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