Guatemala to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in May

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales speaks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in Washington on Sunday.

(CNN)Guatemala will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in two months, just two days after the United States plans to relocate its embassy to the city.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales made the announcement Sunday at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual policy conference in Washington. His remarks were greeted with cheers and applause.
"As a sovereign decision, we recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," Morales said.
    "In May of this year, we will celebrate Israel's 70th anniversary, and under my instructions, two days after the United States moves its embassy, Guatemala will return and permanently move its embassy to Jerusalem."
    Last December, Morales said on his official Facebook account that he planned to make the move. He said he had spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and instructed his foreign ministry to "initiate the process to make it possible."
    The Central American nation is the first country to announce it would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem since President Trump in December recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
    Trump's decision upended seven decades of US foreign policy that has resisted a recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital before the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.
    Morales called Trump's decision "courageous." He thanked the American President "for leading the way" and encouraging his country to make what he called the correct move.
    In 1947, Morales said, Guatemala was among the first countries to cast its vote for the establishment of the State of Israel and, in 1959, Guatemala was the first country to open an embassy in Jerusalem.
    Guatemala moved its embassy to Tel Aviv after the UN Security Council in 1980 called on Guatemala and other countries with their embassies in Jerusalem to withdraw. That came after the Israeli Knesset passed a law stating that Jerusalem -- "complete and united" -- is the capital of Israel.
    "It's important to be among the first, but it is more important to do what is right," Morales said on Sunday. "Therefore, as President of Guatemala and the person responsible for foreign affairs policy of my country, backed by the constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, I decided to return the Guatemalan Embassy to Jerusalem."
      Guatemala was one of a handful of nations to vote against a UN resolution condemning Trump's decision. Netanyahu has suggested that other countries would move their embassies to Jerusalem. Morales said he foresees such moves, too.
      "We are sure that many other countries will follow in our steps," he said.