Mario Abdo Benitez
Mario Abdo BenitezReuters

Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez on Wednesday explained his decision to move his country’s embassy in Israel from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv, reversing a decision made by his predecessor, Horacio Cartes.

In a tweet, Benitez insisted that “Paraguay is a country of principles” and that the decision to move the embassy back to Tel Aviv was meant for Israelis and Palestinian Arabs “to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.”

He added that Paraguay will always be respectful of international law.

The Paraguayan embassy was relocated to Jerusalem in May. With the move, Paraguay followed in the footsteps of the US and Guatemala, which unveiled its new Jerusalem embassy on May 16, two days after the US relocated its embassy to Jerusalem.

But on Wednesday, Paraguayan Foreign Minister Luis Castiglioni announced that the embassy would move back to Tel Aviv, explaining that "Paraguay wants to contribute to an intensification of regional diplomatic efforts to achieve a broad, fair and lasting peace in the Middle East."

In response to the announcement, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu instructed the Foreign Ministry to return the Israeli ambassador to Paraguay back to Israel for consultations, and to close the Israeli embassy in Paraguay.

“Israel views with great severity the unusual decision of Paraguay which will cloud relations between the countries,” the Foreign Ministry said.

The Palestinian Authority (PA), on the other hand, welcomed Paraguay’s decision and announced that it would be immediately opening an “embassy” in Paraguay's capital Asuncion.