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Romania first EU member to move Israel embassy to Jerusalem

Romania is the first EU member state to announce the embassy move [AFP]

Date of publication: 20 April, 2018

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Romania will become the first European Union member to relocate its Israel embassy to Jerusalem, authorities said, after Israel's prime minister promised 'preferential treatment' to those making the move.
The Romanian government will follow the United States and transfer its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the ruling Social Democrat Party (PSD) leader said on Thursday, the first European Union member to make the controversial move.

"The decision has been taken (...), the procedures are beginning," Liviu Dragnea told Antena 3 television ahead of any official government announcement.

According to Dragnea, PSD Prime Minister Viorica Dancila's government agreed on "the start of procedures with a view to the transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem” on Wednesday.

The government spokesman refused to comment when questioned by AFP, although rumours of an intended move from Tel Aviv leaked out last December.

Dragnea noted the "enormous symbolic value" of a move saying Israel "has a strong  international influence" and it would be "very valuable for the American administration."

"I think the decision will produce major benefits for Romania," he added.

"This is also a pragmatic approach. Like all of us, Israel has the right to establish its capital where it wants," Dragnea said.

He had first mooted the transfer late last year but Romania's centre right President Klaus Iohannis opposed it saying the status of Jerusalem should be settled between Israel and the Palestinians.

The announcement came as Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at least six countries were considering the move, noting "preferential treatment" awaits the first ten who do so.

"At least half a dozen” nations are analysing the move, just weeks before the US Embassy is due to relocate to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

"I am pleased to say that there are at least half a dozen countries that are currently talking seriously to us about moving their embassies to Jerusalem," Netanyahu told foreign diplomats at a reception in Jerusalem celebrating the 70th anniversary of that declaration.

The first ten embassies to relocate to Jerusalem would receive "preferential treatment," he added without going into detail.

US President Donald Trump's decision in December to transfer the US embassy to the disputed city has drawn widespread condemnation, with critics saying it damages hopes for a negotiated Middle East peace.

The plan calls for mutual recognition by the states of Israel and Palestine based on 1967 borders, and formation of "an international multilateral mechanism" to assist the two parties in resolving all final status issues and implementing them within a set time frame.

The White House plans to open its new facility in Jerusalem on May 14, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of Israel's creation.

Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

The international consensus has long been that the city's status should be settled as part of a two-state peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

Only seven small countries - including Guatemala and Honduras - sided with the United States and Israel on a non-binding December 21 UN General Assembly resolution rejecting Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Last month, Arab foreign ministers at a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo insisted that Jerusalem must be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

In their final statement, the ministers endorsed a peace plan presented by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the UN Security Council in February and his call for an international peace conference by mid-2018 with the key goals of full UN membership for the state of Palestine and a timeframe for a two-state solution.

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