Guatemala says it is moving embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

This file photo taken on November 28, 2016 shows Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shaking hands during a joint press conference after signing bilateral agreements at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem. (AFP)
Updated 25 December 2017
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Guatemala says it is moving embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

GUATEMALA CITY: Guatemala is to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, President Jimmy Morales said Sunday, becoming the first leader to back US President Donald Trump’s controversial change of stance on the holy city.
After speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Morales wrote to Guatemalans on his Facebook page that “one of the most important topics was the return of Guatemala’s embassy to Jerusalem,” from Tel Aviv where it is currently located.
“For this reason I am informing you that I have given instructions to the foreign ministry that it start the necessary respective coordination to make this happen,” Morales wrote.
Guatemala’s leader made the announcement on Christmas Eve, and three days after two-thirds of UN member states rejected Trump’s decision to have the United States recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
In all, 128 nations voted to maintain the international consensus that Jerusalem’s status can only be decided through peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
Only eight countries stood with the United States in voting no to the resolution held in the UN General Assembly, among them Guatemala and fellow Central American country Honduras.
Guatemala and Honduras are both reliant on US funding to improve security in their gang-ridden territories.

The two nations are, along with El Salvador, in what is known as the Northern Triangle of Central America. Violence, corruption and poverty have made them the main source of illegal migration to the United States, which is giving them $750 million to provide better conditions at home.
Morales, like Trump, was a television entertainer with no real political experience before becoming president of Guatemala in 2016.
On Friday, Morales foreshadowed the decision he was to make regarding Jerusalem, as he defended his government’s vote at the UN backing the United States.
“Guatemala is historically pro-Israeli,” he told a news conference in Guatemala City.
“In 70 years of relations, Israel has been our ally,” he said.
“We have a Christian way of thinking that, as well as the politics of it, has us believing that Israel is our ally and we must support it. Despite us only being nine in the world (in the UN vote), we have the total certainty and conviction that this is the right path.”
Morales’s position has become fragile in recent months because of allegations of corruption against him being investigated by a special UN-backed body working with Guatemalan prosecutors.
The United States ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has said her country would “take names” of the states voting against its position. She added that when it makes contributions to the UN, “we also have a legitimate expectation that our goodwill is recognized and respected.”
Several significant US allies abstained from the UN vote, among them Australia, Canada, Mexico and Poland.
Others, such as Britain, France and Germany and South Korea were in the majority of 128 nations denouncing any unilateral decision to view Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The eight countries on the US side of the vote were: Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo.


Calm in Hodeidah as observers move in to monitor cease-fire

Sporadic clashes continued until about 3 a.m. on Tuesday, but residents said there was calm after that. (AFP)
Updated 19 December 2018
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Calm in Hodeidah as observers move in to monitor cease-fire

  • “Both parties said publicly they are abiding by the cease-fire,” a UN official said
  • The truce in Hodeidah officially began at midnight on Monday

JEDDAH: Truce monitoring observers will be deployed in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah on Wednesday as the first 24 hours of a UN-brokered cease-fire passed without incident.

The Redeployment Coordination Committee comprises members of the Yemeni government supported by the Saudi-led coalition, and Houthi militias backed by Iran, and is overseen by the UN. 

The head of the committee will report to the UN Security Council every week.

Deployment of the observers is the latest stage in a peace deal reached after talks last week in Sweden. Both sides in the conflict agreed to a cease-fire in Hodeidah and the withdrawal of their forces within 21 days.

“Both parties said publicly they are abiding by the cease-fire,” a UN official said on Tuesday.

Local authorities and police will run the city and its three port facilities under UN supervision, and the two sides are barred from bringing in reinforcements.

UN envoy Martin Griffith said the committee was expected to start its work swiftly “to translate the momentum built up in Sweden into achievements on the ground.”

The truce in Hodeidah officially began at midnight on Monday. Sporadic clashes continued until about 3 a.m. on Tuesday, but residents said there was calm after that. 

“We are hopeful that things will go back to the way they were and that there will be no aggression, no airstrikes and lasting security,” said one, Amani Mohammed.

Another resident, Mohammed Al-Saikel, said he was optimistic the cease-fire would pave the way for a broader truce. “We are hopeful about this cease-fire in Hodeidah and one for Yemen in general,” he said. “We will reach out in peace to whoever does the same.”

The UN Security Council is considering a draft resolution that asks Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to submit proposals by the end of the month on how to monitor the cease-fire.

The resolution, submitted by the UK, “calls on all parties to the conflict to take further steps to facilitate the unhindered flow of commercial and humanitarian supplies including food, fuel, medicine and other essential imports and humanitarian personnel into and across the country.”