The Romanian government will follow the United States and transfer its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the ruling Social Democrat Party (PSD) leader said Thursday (19 April).
“The decision has been taken (…), the procedures are beginning,” Liviu Dragnea told Antena 3 television ahead of any official government announcement.
According to Dragnea, PSD Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă’s government agreed Wednesday on “the start of procedures with a view to the transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem.”
Dragnea is seen as Romania’s strong man. He is barred from public office because of an electoral fraud conviction, but it’s him who calls the shots as head of the ruling party.
Last January Dragnea designated Dăncilă for Prime Minister However, in terms of foreign policy, the president Klaus Iohannis, who is at odds with the socialists, has strong prerogatives.
The government spokesman refused to comment when questioned by AFP, although rumours of an intended move from Tel Aviv leaked out last December.
President Donald Trump’s call to shift the US embassy to the disputed city sparked deadly protests and 128 states condemned it in a United Nations General Assembly vote in December.
Only seven smaller countries aligned themselves with the United States and Israel. The EU has expressed serious concern after Trump recognised Jerusalem as capital of Israel. Romania would be the first EU member to follow in US footsteps.
Trump has mooted a trip to Jerusalem to open the embassy in May.
Dragnea noted the “enormous symbolic value” of a move saying Israel “has a strong international influence” and it would be “very valuable for the American administration.”
“I think the decision will produce major benefits for Romania,” he added.
“This is also a pragmatic approach. Like all of us, Israel has the right to establish its capital where it wants,” Dragnea said.
He had first mooted the transfer late last year but Romania’s centre right President Klaus Iohannis opposed it saying the status of Jerusalem should be settled between Israel and the Palestinians who both claim the holy city as their capital.
Romania will hold the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU from 1 January 2019.