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Brazil's decision to move embassy to al-Quds could harm ties: Arab League

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Arab League's secretary general, gestures as he speaks at the Rome Mediterranean summit MED 2018 in Rome, Italy, November 22, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)

The Arab League has slammed a plan by Brazil’s far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro to transfer his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Israeli-occupied Jerusalem al-Quds, warning that the possible move could harm bilateral relations.

In a letter to Brazil’s Foreign Ministry seen by Reuters on Monday, Arab League’s Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Bolsonaro, who is set to be sworn in on January 1, should reconsider his campaign promise or risk downgrade in ties.

Aboul Gheit said the decision on where to locate an embassy was the sovereign decision of any country, but “the situation of Israel is not normal” as it has been “occupying Palestinian territories by force - among them East Jerusalem [al-Quds].”

Relocating the embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds would be considered a violation of international law and the United National Security Council resolutions, Aboul Gheit wrote.

Brazil's President-elect Jair Bolsonaro listens to his Vice President-elect Hamilton Mourao before receiving a confirmation of his victory in the recent presidential election in Brasilia, Brazil, December 10, 2018. (By Reuters)

He further urged Bolsonaro to “take into consideration the Arab point of view as a way to preserve our long-standing friendship.”

An unnamed diplomat told Reuters that ambassadors from the Arab League’s 22 member states are expected to meet in the Brazilian capital, Brasilia, on Tuesday to discuss the embassy move.

“The Arab world has much respect for Brazil and we want not just to maintain relations but improve and diversify them. But the intention of moving the embassy to Jerusalem [al-Quds] could harm them,” said the diplomat.

Shortly after he was elected in late October, Bolsonaro announced he intended to uphold his campaign promise and move the Latin American country’s embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds to follow in the footsteps of the US and Guatemala.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly welcomed the plan and issued a statement in praise of the decision.

The decision has drawn strong condemnation from the Palestinians and the Arab world.

The Palestinian Authority official has blasted the plan as “provocative and illegal” and the Hamas resistance movement has described it as “hostile.”

Meanwhile, Kan 11 television channel reported that during a meeting two weeks ago with US National Security Adviser John Bolton, Bolsonaro said that no final decision had yet been made on the relocation of Brazil’s embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds and that there were various issues on the agenda before a final decision is reached.

According to the report, Bolsonaro’s main concern is possible damage to Brazil's trade relations with Muslim countries if a decision is made to move the embassy.

Israel occupied Jerusalem al-Quds in 1967 in a move never recognized by the international community. The Palestinians want the city as the capital of their future state.

Tensions have been running high in the occupied Palestinian territories and the Gaza Strip since December 2017, when US President Donald Trump decided to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital” and relocate Washington’s embassy from Tel Aviv to the occupied city.

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