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Romanian president slams plan to move Israel embassy

© AFP/File | Romanian President Klaus Iohannis's office said he had "not been consulted or informed over this process" of moving the country's Israel embassy to Jerusalem

BUCHAREST (AFP) - 

A row erupted Friday between Romania's government and President Klaus Iohannis over a proposal to move the country's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The foreign ministry announced that "a process of analysis and evaluation with the aim of transferring the embassy has been launched".

Prime Minister Viorica Dancila of the left-wing Social Democratic Party confirmed Friday the government had adopted a memorandum on moving the embassy but added that other steps needed to be taken before a final decision.

In December US President Donald Trump sparked global controversy by announcing that the United States would move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Romania would be the first EU country to follow suit.

- President 'not consulted' -

Dancila was more cautious than PSD party chief Liviu Dragnea, who on Thursday pre-empted any official announcement and told the Antena 3 TV channel that the decision to move the embassy had been taken.

Meanwhile Iohannis's office said he had "not been consulted or informed over this process," adding that in his opinion the decision was "not based on firm, wide-ranging evaluations".

Iohannis, who is from the centre-right and has expressed numerous disagreements with the government, pointed to the constitution, under which the president "approves the creation or shutting down" of diplomatic missions.

Emphasising that Romania's position on the Israeli-Palestinian question "had not changed", Iohannis said: "At this stage a transfer of the embassy would represent a violation of international law."

"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.

- 'Balanced position' -

Dancila confirmed on Friday that the government had adopted a memorandum outlining the plans.

"I assure you that we are responsible, we have judgement,... we will discuss this with all institutions, including the president," she told reporters.

"When we get to a shared position we will make that public," she added.

According to Romanian media reports, Dancila will make an official trip to Israel next week. Israel's deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely had visited Romania last week.

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 Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

As well as being the only country in the former Soviet bloc to maintain diplomatic relations with Israel after the 1967 war, Romania under its Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu also had close links to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) under Yasser Arafat.

In its statement the foreign ministry emphasised Romania's "balanced position" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the fact that Romania recognised Palestine as a state under the communist era.

© 2018 AFP