Romanian President Klaus Iohannis on Friday sharply criticised plans announced by the head of the ruling party to move the country’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Iohannis had “not been consulted or informed over this process,” his office said in a statement, adding that in his opinion the decision was “not based on firm, wide-ranging evaluations”.
On Thursday, the head of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), Liviu Dragnea, told the Antena 3 TV channel: “The decision has been taken… procedures [for the move] have started.” However, the government of Prime Minister Viorica Dancila has not officially confirmed the news and a government spokesman refused to comment on the issue when asked by AFP.
Due to a previous two-year suspended prison sentence for electoral fraud, Dragnea could not take up the post of prime minister after the PSD won legislative elections at the end of 2016, but he is still as having a key role in party decisions.
Iohannis, who is from the centre-right and has expressed numerous disagreements with the government, claimed he had the authority to “take decisions relating to Romania’s foreign policy” and underlined that Bucharest’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian question “had not changed”.
“At this stage a transfer of the embassy would represent a violation of international law,” he said.
“The government’s initiative could eventually represent, at the most, the beginning of a process of evaluation… which could only be finalised after the conclusion of peace talks,” Iohannis added.
In December American President Donald Trump sparked global controversy by announcing that the US would move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Romania would be the first EU country to follow suit.
Israel occupied mainly Palestinian east Jerusalem and the surrounding region in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it, declaring the whole city its capital.
However, neither move was recognised by the international community and the Palestinians see the eastern part of the city as the capital of their future state.