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Paraguay moves embassy back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shakes hands with Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes during their meeting on May 21 at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem. After following the U.S. and Guatemala and moving its new embassy to Jerusalem, Paraguay has decided to move its embassy back to Tel Aviv. (Sebastian Scheiner/AFP/Getty Images)

The nation of Paraguay has decided to move its embassy back to Tel Aviv after initially being one of a small handful of nations that had joined the United States in opening embassies in Jerusalem.

What's the background?

On Dec. 6, the White House issued a statement declaring that “it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

Shortly after that announcement, the U.N. general assembly passed a resolution asking the U.S. to rescind its statement. Only nine nations voted against the measure: the U.S. and Israel (predictably), Guatemala, Honduras, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, and Togo. Notably, Paraguay was not among this number

Guatemala became the first nation to follow suit when it officially declared on Dec. 24 that it would be moving its embassy to Jerusalem.

Not to be outdone, Paraguay announced on May 21 that it would be moving its embassy to Jerusalem. At a ceremony to open the new embassy, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the move was “a great day for Israel, a great day for Paraguay, a great day for our friendship.”

On Wednesday, Paraguay announced that it would be moving its embassy back to Tel Aviv. In retaliation, Netanyahu recalled the Israeli ambassador from Paraguay.

What led to this?

The Palestinian Authority foreign ministry has taken credit for the move, claiming that it pressured Paraguay's President Mario Abdo Benitez.

“Minister Maliki exerted a big effort during his meeting with the new president who instructed his foreign minister to arrange the issue,” the foreign ministry said, applauding the move as “a new Palestinian diplomatic achievement.”

The Paraguayan government has not yet mentioned this, instead citing the future of Middle East peace as the reason behind the move.

“Paraguay wants to contribute to an intensification of regional diplomatic efforts to achieve a broad, fair and lasting peace in the Middle East,” Paraguayan Foreign Minister Luis Alberto Castiglioni told the media.

Another factor behind the move could be a change in power. President Benitez took office in August.

Israel's Foreign Ministry said it viewed Paraguay's decision “with great severity” and that this could potentially “cloud bilateral relations.”

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