Lithuanian PM considering moving embassy to Jerusalem

Lithuanian PM Saulius Skvernelis says he will consider moving embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel's capital if he becomes president.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius

Center-right Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said Tuesday he would consider moving Lithuania's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the disputed city of Jerusalem, should he win May's presidential elections.

Skvernelis said that moving the mission could lead to closer ties with Israel and the United States, which Lithuania sees as a key security buffer against Russia.

The embassy transfer "could bring new impetus for relations with Israel, both in the areas of security and trade," Skvernelis told reporters as he hit the presidential campaign trail to outline his foreign policy priorities.

"We would also send a signal that the United States is our partner not only in words but that we also side with it in bitter questions under discussions," he added.

Senior politicians in fellow EU states Czech Republic and Romania have said they are also considered moving their embassies to Jerusalem but no decisions have been taken to this date.

Skvernelis insisted on Tuesday that his nation "must not be afraid to differ from neighboring states", saying cultural and security links made Israel one of Lithuania's closest allies.

The legacy of the Holocaust and close alignment with the US are among the reasons why Lithuania has become one of Israel's closest friends within the EU over the last decade.

Outgoing president Dalia Grybauskaite, who after two consecutive terms is not running for re-election, "would not comment on election programs", her spokeswoman said.

Lithuania will hold a two-round presidential election on May 12 and 26.

In recent opinion polls, Skvernelis was trailing independent economist Gitanas Nauseda and conservative ex-finance minister Ingrida Simonyte.