Guatemala to move embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in May

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley (C), waves upon arriving at the Culture Palace in Guatemala City for a meeting with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales on February 28, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 05 March 2018
0

Guatemala to move embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in May

WASHINGTON: Guatemala will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in May, two days after the US embassy makes the same move, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales said on Sunday at a conference in Washington.
“I would like to thank President Trump for leading the way. His courageous decision has encouraged us to do what is right,” Morales said in a speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference, according to a translation of his remarks on the pro-Israel US lobbying group’s website.
Guatemala was one of only a handful of countries that backed US President Donald Trump’s December decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Trump’s move reversed decades of US policy, upsetting the Arab world and Western allies.
Afterward, 128 countries defied Trump by backing a non-binding UN General Assembly resolution calling for the United States to drop its recognition of Jerusalem.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest obstacles to forging a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as their capital.
The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions.
The United States is an important source of assistance to Guatemala, and Trump had threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that supported the UN resolution.
Prior to 1980, Guatemala and a dozen other countries maintained an embassy in Jerusalem. Israel’s passage in June 1980 of a law proclaiming Jerusalem its “indivisible and eternal capital” led to a UN Security Council resolution calling on Guatemala and several other countries to move their embassies to Tel Aviv, prompting their transfer.
Morales said his decision to return the Guatemalan embassy to Jerusalem “strongly evidences Guatemala’s continued support and solidarity with the people of Israel.”
Morales, a former television comedian with an important base of conservative Christian support in the Central American country, became embroiled earlier this year in a dispute with the United Nations when a UN-backed anti-corruption body in Guatemala tried to impeach him.
Although Morales avoided impeachment, he failed in an attempt to expel the head of the body, the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, after criticism from the United Nations, the United States and the European Union. 


Mardini — refugee from Syria rising fast after fleeing war

Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini, the Olypmpia swimmer, escaped conflict in her homeland. A year later she famously competed at the Rio Olympics. (Photo/UNHCR)
Updated 52 min 44 sec ago
0

Mardini — refugee from Syria rising fast after fleeing war

  • The 21-year-old girl almost drowned at sea fleeing her war-torn country four years ago

GWANGJU/SOUTH KOREA: Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini, who almost drowned at sea fleeing her war-torn country four years ago, heaved a deep sigh after failing to set a personal best at the world swimming championships on Sunday.

Representing FINA’s independent athletes team, the 21-year-old looked up at the giant scoreboard and winced at her time of 1 minute 8.79 seconds in the 100-meter butterfly heats in South Korea.
“I’m not very happy actually,” Mardini told AFP.
“I had some problems with my shoulder but I’m back in training. I still have the 100m freestyle and I’m looking forward to that.”
Mardini’s time was more than 12 seconds slower than that of reigning champion Sarah Sjostrom and 47th overall, but she has come a long way since risking her life crossing from Izmir in Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos in the summer of 2015.
Refugee swimmer Mardini knows what she is talking about when it comes to family separation for asylum seekers.
In 2015, she and her sister Sarah had escaped conflict in their homeland when the boat they were aboard with other refugees began sinking. They jumped out and swam part of the journey from Turkey to Greece.
They then embarked on an overland trip from Greece to Germany, evading local authorities in countries with immigration policies that barred them from legal entry. Along the way the sisters slept in train stations or wherever they could find shelter.
Mardini empathizes with families currently separated along the US southern border.
“This is the most terrible thing anyone can have — to live without a mom or to live without a family,” she said on Sunday at the world swimming championships where she’s competing as an independent athlete.
“I arrived in Greece in only jeans and a T-shirt,” said Mardini, who also swims in the 100m freestyle later this week. “Even my shoes were gone.”
“In the beginning I refused to be in a refugee team because I was afraid people would think I got the chance because of my story,” said Mardini, who now lives with her family in Berlin.
“I wanted to earn it. But then I realized I had a big opportunity to represent those people — so I took the chance and I never regretted it,” she added.
Mardini was 17 at the time. She is now a goodwill ambassador for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. She famously competed at the Rio Olympics a year later under the refugee flag.

FASTFACT

• In 2015, she and her sister had escaped conflict in their homeland when the boat they were aboard with other refugees began sinking. They jumped out and swam part of the journey from Turkey to Greece.

• Mardini was 17 at the time. She is now a goodwill ambassador for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“Rio was amazing. It was really exciting to see the reaction of people to the team. Now I’m representing millions of displaced people around the world and it really makes me proud.”
It is a far cry from life back in Syria, where rocket strikes would often shake the pool she trained at in Damascus.
“There were bomb attacks sometimes that would crack the windows around the pool,” said Mardini, who has addressed the UN General Assembly and whose story is set to be told in a Hollywood movie.
“I know people who lost their moms on the way or in the water — that got drowned — and I feel this is terrible,” she said.
Mardini said that from the time she left Syria she lived without her mother for six months. Eventually, they were reunited in Germany, where they now live in Berlin. “I felt so alone,” she said. “So lonely.”
The experience has prompted her to stand up for fellow asylum seekers in similar situations.
“Someone has to do something about it,” Mardini said. “The least we can do is talk about it, not just ignore it like everything else happening in the world.”
Mardini finished 47th out of 52 swimmers in the 100-meter butterfly heats on Sunday. Her other event in Gwangju is the 100 freestyle on Thursday.
She is attempting to again qualify for the Olympics as a member of the Refugee Olympic Team.
“My goal now is just to swim a new personal best,” she said. “And my next goal will be Tokyo 2020.”
Fellow Syrian Ayman Kelzieh was also forced to flee the country before competing at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon.
Returning to Korea five years later, the 26-year-old now owns a fistful of national swim records, including the 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly.
“When the war started I had just moved to Damascus and I couldn’t get back home to Aleppo,” said Kelzieh, who now lives on the Thai island of Phuket.
“But even in Damascus bombs sometimes even went off at the swimming pool we trained at,” he added after taking a poolside selfie with his idol, South African star Chad le Clos.
“There were even attacks at the hotel I stayed in — I was lucky.”