Rabat suspends twin city plan with Guatemala over Jerusalem embassy move

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The Moroccan capital's deputy mayor said the decision was taken 'in solidarity with the Palestinian people'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales after the opening of the embassy of Guatemala in Jerusalem (Reuters)
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Rabat has suspended plans to form a twin city partnership with the capital of Guatemala in protest against the Central American country transferring its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the Moroccan capital's deputy mayor said on Saturday.

"Following Guatemala's decision to establish an embassy in Al Quds (Jerusalem), Rabat’s city council unanimously decided to suspend the examination of a twinning project with Guatemala City in solidarity with the Palestinian people,” deputy mayor Lahcen El Amrani of the PJD party told Reuters.

Guatemala opened an embassy in Jerusalem on Wednesday, two days after the United States inaugurated its new site there, a move that infuriated Palestinians and drew international condemnation.

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Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the embassy's opening on Wednesday in an office complex in west Jerusalem.

"It's not a coincidence that Guatemala is opening its embassy in Jerusalem right among the first. You were always among the first. You were the second country to recognise Israel," Netanyahu said at the ceremony, referring to its founding in 1948.

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Guatemala was one of only a few nations that backed US President Donald Trump’s decision in December to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and is only the second country to move its embassy to the city from Tel Aviv. Paraguay said it will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by the end of May.

Israel considers Jerusalem its capital and Palestinians also hope one day to have the capital of independent state there. Most countries have their Israel embassies in Tel Aviv, arguing that the status of Jerusalem must be determined in future talks.

On the day the United States opened its new embassy, Israeli troops killed 60 Palestinian demonstrators at the border in Gaza. Israel says the violence was incited by Hamas, the group that runs Gaza. Hamas denies blame.

Prior to 1980, Guatemala and a dozen other countries maintained embassies 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.

The Rabat city council had previously planned to vote on a twinning project with Guatemala City last week. Guatemala opened an embassy in Rabat, its second in Africa, in November 2017.