Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Costa Rica to move its embassy out of Jerusalem

Costa Rican president Oscar Arias - AP Photo/Fernando VergaraSAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) - Costa Rica will move its embassy in Israel from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, its new president said on Wednesday, in a move that pleases Arab nations and is a blow to the Israeli government.

The decision will leave El Salvador as the only country in the world with an embassy in Jerusalem.

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, a former Nobel Peace Prize winner, said he made the decision to win more friends in the Middle East and comply with United Nations' resolutions.

"It's time to rectify an historic error that hurts us internationally and deprives us of almost any form of friendship with the Arab world, and more broadly with Islamic civilization, to which a sixth of humanity belongs," Arias said at an event marking his first 100 days in office.

He said Shimon Peres, Israel's deputy prime minister, had called him on Tuesday to ask him to reconsider the decision.

Israel regards East Jerusalem as part of its "undivided and eternal capital." It captured the eastern part of Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in a move not recognized internationally.

Former Costa Rican President Luis Alberto Monge moved the embassy to Jerusalem in 1982 as a show of support for Israel.

Arias said the relocation to Tel Aviv should not, however, be interpreted as as a slight to Israel, which has had historically close ties to Costa Rica.

“This is not about offending the dear people of Israel, with whom we are united, and will continue to be united by close ties, deeper than any political juncture. This is about respecting international law,” Arias said in a statement.

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