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Honduras to move embassy to Jerusalem this month, president says

Central American country will become the fourth nation to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem since the US first made the controversial move in 2018
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez speaks during an inauguration ceremony in Jerusalem of the Diplomatic Trade Office of Honduras on 1 September 2019 (AFP/File photo)

Honduras will become the latest country to open an embassy in Jerusalem - in violation of international norms - in a bid to build closer ties with Israel.

The Honduran embassy, after decades of operating in Tel Aviv, will move this month to a location in Jerusalem, its president announced on Thursday.

President Juan Orlando Hernandez said the move was the next logical step in the new trajectory of the country's relationship with Israel. 

'I will mark the 30th anniversary of my first visit [to Israel], returning to inaugurate the Embassy of Honduras'

- Juan Orlando Hernandez, president of Honduras 

"We are going to formalise what we have already carried out step by step, which is the installation of our embassy in Jerusalem," Hernandez said.

While it had stayed mostly neutral regarding Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories, the Central American nation, under Hernandez, is now seeking closer ties with Israel, which is set to open a diplomatic office in Tegucigalpa, Honduras’s capital city, in response. 

Israel had opened a temporary representative office in August amid warming relations. 

In 2014, Hernandez became the first head of state who had participated in an international development cooperation programme, known as Mashav, organised through Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, having completed the programme some 30 years ago. 

"In three weeks, I will mark the 30th anniversary of my first visit, returning to inaugurate the Embassy of Honduras in Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel," Hernandez said on Twitter. 

Honduras recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital in August 2019. But under international law, Jerusalem is a contested city, with East Jerusalem officially considered to be occupied by Israel.

Palestinians consider East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state. For decades, the international community has, under the advisement of a UN resolution, operated embassies in Tel Aviv, with only consulates in Jerusalem, as a means to respect the contested nature of the city. 

Former US president Donald Trump, however, chose to move forward with a long-abandoned plan to move the US's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, doing so in 2018. Guatemala and Kosovo soon followed, while Serbia has declared its intent to move theirs. 

US President Joe Biden has said he does not plan to move the US embassy back to Tel Aviv, but wants to open another US diplomatic office in occupied East Jerusalem that will serve Palestinian citizens of Israel. 

During Thursday's announcement, Hernandez said that his move to improve ties with Israel is set to "empower" Honduran agriculture, innovation and tourism.

There was no immediate comment from Israeli officials.

Honduras has the second-largest Palestinian community in Latin America, second only to Chile.