Brazil opens Jerusalem trade centre as step to embassy shift

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (centre) with his wife Sara and Brazilian lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro at the opening of Brazil's trade office in Jerusalem on Sunday

Brazil opened a trade office in Jerusalem Sunday, in a ceremony attended by President Jair Bolsonaro's son and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Speaking at the ceremony, Eduardo Bolsonaro, a lawmaker, said his father intended to make good on a pledge he made early this year to move Brazil's embassy in Israel from the city of Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

"He told me that for sure -- it's a commitment -- he's going to move the embassy to Jerusalem, he's going to do that," the younger Bolsonaro said, in Netanyahu's presence.

President Bolsonaro in January pledged to follow US President Donald Trump's controversial step and relocate his country's embassy from Tel Aviv.

The Brazilian head of state visited Israel in March, when he announced his country's intention to open a trade office in the disputed city.

Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, while Palestinians view east Jerusalem as the capital of its own future state.

Virtually all countries maintain their embassies in the city of Tel Aviv, insisting Jerusalem's status be defined through Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

The United States broke with that decades-long consensus in May 2018 and relocated its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, with only Guatemala following suit so far. Paraguay made the move but later backtracked.

Hungary has also opened a trade office in Jerusalem.

Fears have been raised that moving the embassy could endanger Brazil's valuable meat exports to Arab markets but Eduardo Bolsonaro said any delay was due to Brazil wanting to prepare the move in a thorough manner.

"We want to do a movement to Jerusalem not only for Brazil but to be an example for the rest of Latin America," the Brazilian lawmaker, who is also chairman of his parliament's foreign relations and national defence commission, said.

Speaking at the ceremony, Netanyahu noted "President Bolsonaro's commitment to open an embassy in Jerusalem next year."

Netanyahu thanked Brazil for its support of Israel in international forums and noted recent bilateral aid the Jewish state provided to cope with natural disasters.

"Israel was there, and Israel will always be there for the people of Brazil and for our common friendship," Netanyahu said.