Suriname backs down on pledge to open embassy in Jerusalem, Israel

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President Chandrikapersad Santokhi

The government of Suriname has backed down from opening an embassy in Jerusalem, Israel – at least from the time being.

In a recent statement to Parliament, President Chandrikapersad Santokhi said no money had been allocated in the budget to set up a diplomatic post.

With this statement, the head of government backtracked on the promise made by his foreign minister, Albert Ramdin, to his Israeli colleague, Yair Lapid, during his working visit to Israel last month.

Ramdin’s promise caused a great deal of commotion and backlash in Suriname, especially among the Muslim community.

The president also indicated in parliament that the cooperation relationship with Israel would be given further substance from Suriname.

According to Santokhi, Ramdin had several conversations during his working visit to Israel.

The president added that Ramdin would provide him with an integral report on the working visit, including recommendations.

Based on the report, the president, who is responsible for foreign policy, will determine the further course.

The decision to establish an embassy in Israel will be preceded by consultations and dialogue with various groups. The president added that the decision would be in the national interest.

Concerning these developments, Barkat Mohab-Ali, a member of parliament from Santokhi’s party, threatened to leave the party and join another faction in the parliament if an embassy was established in Jerusalem, as promised by Ramdin.

Opposition members, as well as Speaker of the House Marinus Bee, strongly opposed the establishment of an embassy in Jerusalem. 

“We know how sensitive it is to open an embassy in Jerusalem. I want to make it clear to the government that we don’t want that. Because we know what the consequences could be for the country. There should be no embassy in Jerusalem! We are not going to put ourselves in that position, and that is a clear instruction from the National Assembly to the government,” Bee expressed the sentiments of MPs during a public session of the parliament.

Santokhi said diplomatic relations with Israel would be maintained from Paramaribo by a non-resident ambassador.

In March this year, Stevanus Noordzee was sworn in by the head of State as a non-resident ambassador for Israel.

Noordzee had also traveled with Ramdin during his recent working visit to Israel, where he presented his credentials to Lapid.

During that meeting, Ramdin and his Israeli colleague signed an agreement on political consultation between the Israeli and Surinamese ministries.

Lapid also offered to send humanitarian aid to Suriname to help displaced persons in the aftermath of severe flooding.

In recent years, four countries have moved their embassies to Jerusalem, including Honduras, Guatemala, Kosovo, and the United States, while many other countries opposed the decisions.

Jerusalem remains at the heart of the decades-long Middle East conflict, with Palestinians insisting that East Jerusalem – which was captured by Israel in 1967 — should serve as the capital of the Palestinian State.

In the United Nations, Suriname has always supported resolutions calling for recognition of the Palestinian State and a peaceful solution to the conflict in the Middle East.

During a press conference last week, Ramdin noted that the Jerusalem issue should not be viewed emotionally and that Suriname’s international position in the Arab world has not changed.

Israel and Suriname established diplomatic relations in 1976.

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