Mike Pence
Mike PenceReuters

The White House said on Thursday that Vice President Mike Pence spoke with Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez to discuss his decision to move his country’s embassy back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem.

“The Vice President strongly encouraged President Abdo Benitez to follow through with Paraguay’s previous commitment to move the embassy as a sign of the historic relationship the country has maintained with both Israel and the United States,” said a statement from the White House.

“President Abdo Benitez underscored Paraguay’s lasting partnership with Israel and the leaders agreed to work towards achieving a compressive and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the statement added.

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."

Abdo Benitez later explained 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.”

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.