Romania govt supports moving embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, president concerned

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania’s government has backed moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, drawing a warning from the president - who has the final say - that the move could break international law.

FILE PHOTO: Social Democrat Party leader Liviu Dragnea gestures after leaving the Romanian anti-corruption prosecutors headquarters in Bucharest, Romania, November 13, 2017. Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea/via REUTERS

Romania would be one of the first countries to relocate its embassy following the United States after U.S. President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December, infuriating Washington’s Arab allies and dismaying Palestinians who want the eastern part of the city as their capital.

“Yesterday, the government adopted a memorandum deciding to start the procedure to effectively move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” Social Democrat leader and lower house speaker Liviu Dragnea told private television station Antena3 late on Thursday.

Dragnea keeps a tight grip on his party and is seen as effectively in charge of the cabinet.

Prime Minister Viorica Dancila confirmed on Friday that the memorandum has been approved but said its content was confidential and could not be made public yet.

“A memorandum has been approved at the government meeting,” Dancila told reporters. “We will hold talks afterwards.”

Under Romanian legislation, the final say on embassy relocation belongs to centrist President Klaus Iohannis, who said he had not been consulted.

In a statement, Iohannis urged government to show “responsibility and discernment on major foreign policy decisions that have strategic effects including on national security.”

“The president would like to remind that there are a series of UN security council resolutions ... requesting, among other things, that UN member states abstain from setting up diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.”

“As a result, relocating Romania’s embassy would constitute breaking the relevant international law,” Iohannis said.

The foreign ministry said the memorandum was only the start of a wide consultation process and that it sought to identify the best way for Romania to position itself. It added Romania’s position regarding the Israeli-Palestinian case “has traditionally been a balanced one, including ... bilaterally recognising the Palestinian state.”

On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “at least half a dozen” countries were considering moving their embassies to Jerusalem. The U.S. Embassy is due to relocate its unit on May 14.

“Our gesture has a huge symbolic value ... for Israel, a state with an unbelievably large influence in the world and with which we have had a special relationship for many years,” Social Democrat leader Dragnea said.

“Moving the embassy to Jerusalem can and I believe will bring short, medium and long-term benefits for Romania and we must use this huge chance and opportunity.”