Palestinians consider recalling envoy over Brazil's Jerusalem trade mission

Reuters , Monday 1 Apr 2019

Mahmoud Abbas
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: Reuters)

The Palestinian ambassador to Brazil said on Monday he may be recalled home after right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's new government said it will open a trade mission to Israel in Jerusalem.

Brazil's announcement on Sunday came during a visit by Bolsonaro to Israel. It stopped short of following the United States with a full embassy move to the city of Jerusalem, as Bolsonaro had suggested in January. Like most countries, Brazil has an embassy in Tel Aviv.

Bolsonaro's original proposal angered the Muslim world, and senior Brazilian officials backed away from it for fear of damaging ties with Arab countries and jeopardizing billions of dollars in Brazilian halal meat exports.

Presidential spokesman Otavio Rego Barros said on Sunday the trade mission would not be a diplomatic representation, but the move drew anger from the Palestinians.

Brazil has not officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Most world powers say the city's status should only be decided as part of a peace process with the Palestinians.

Palestinian Ambassador in Brasilia Ibrahim Alzeban told Reuters that he may be recalled, although a response was still under consideration.

"From what I was told, it will depend on how (Bolsonaro's) visit evolves," Alzeban said. "We wish that the subject of Jerusalem had not been touched upon."

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said on Sunday the opening of the Jerusalem trade office was as a "a flagrant violation of international legitimacy (and) direct aggression against our people and their rights."

Israel captured East Jerusalem along with the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Middle East war. Palestinians seek to establish a state in the territories, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Alzeban said the Palestinians were also upset because Bolsonaro did not consider a visit to the Palestinian territories or coordinate his visit with Palestinian authorities.

Bolsonaro is an outspoken admirer of US President Donald Trump, who broke with consensus by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moving the US embassy there last year.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he hopes that Brazil's Jerusalem trade office is a step toward moving the embassy to the city.

"There is no recognition of Jerusalem as the capital," Brazilian presidential spokesman Barros said. "Our president continues to evaluate this possibility (of moving the embassy), but that is not what we decided at this time." 

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