BRASILIA (Reuters) - The Arab League has told Brazil’s right-wing President-elect Jair Bolsonaro that moving Brazil’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem would be a setback for relations with Arab countries, in a letter seen by Reuters on Monday.
Such a move by Bolsonaro, who takes office on Jan. 1, would be a sharp shift in Brazilian foreign policy, which has traditionally backed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Ambassadors from Arab nations are expected to meet in Brasilia on Tuesday to discuss Bolsonaro’s plan to follow U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to recognize Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, according to the Arab diplomat who asked not to be named.
The letter to Bolsonaro from the league’s Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit and delivered to Brazil’s foreign ministry said the decision on where to locate an embassy was the sovereign decision of any country.
“However, the situation of Israel is not normal, seeing that it is a country that has been occupying Palestinian territories by force - among them East Jerusalem,” the letter said.
Moving the embassy to Jerusalem would be considered a violation of international law and the United National Security Council resolutions, Aboul Gheit said.
The embassy move has been praised as “historic” by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who plans to attend Bolsonaro’s presidential inauguration, according to the Brazilian’s transition team.
“The Arab world has much respect for Brazil and we want not just to maintain relations but improve and diversify them. But the intention of moving the embassy to Jerusalem could harm them,” the diplomat said.
Brazil is one of the world’s top halal meat exporters and that trade could run into trouble if Bolsonaro angers Arab nations by moving the embassy. That could hurt exports to key Middle Eastern markets for Brazilian beef and poultry producers BRF SA and JBS SA.
Halal meat is butchered and prepared as prescribed by Muslim law.
The meat exporters lobby has pressed the incoming president not to move the embassy, and he appeared to change his mind.
But the president-elect’s son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, speaking after recently visiting Trump advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner at the White House, said the embassy move was “not a question of if, but of when.”
Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Richard Chang