The Pacific Islands nation of Fiji will send a delegation headed by Deputy Prime Minister, Villiame Gavoka, to Israel this month before opening an embassy in Jerusalem in 2024, Fiji officials said, fulfilling an election promise by Gavoka’s political party, Reuters reports.
A large delegation will travel on a specially chartered Fiji Airways flight to attend the Festival of the Tabernacles in Israel, which runs from 29 September to 6 October, the officials said.
Fiji will open an embassy in Jerusalem next year, a spokeswoman from the Fiji Prime Minister’s office said.
“The establishment of the embassy represents a significant milestone in Fiji’s diplomatic relations with Israel,” she told Reuters in an email.
Last month, Pacific Islands neighbour, Papua New Guinea (PNG), opened an embassy in Jerusalem, becoming only the fifth country with a full diplomatic mission in a city whose status is one of the most sensitive issues in the Middle East.
PNG joined embassies from the United States, Kosovo, Guatemala and Honduras in Jerusalem, while most countries maintain their diplomatic representation in the coastal city of Tel Aviv, Israel’s main economic hub.
PNG’s decision was driven by Zionist church groups in the deeply Christian Pacific nation, and Prime Minister, James Marape, said Israel would pay the embassy’s costs for two years.
Fiji’s Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, agreed to open an embassy in Jerusalem to win support from Gavoka’s Social Democratic Liberal Party to form a coalition government after national elections in December 2022, a deal that saw Fiji’s first change of government in 14 years.
In June, Fiji allocated funding for an embassy in Israel in its national budget, but Israel later offered financial help if the embassy were to be located in Jerusalem, the Fiji Times reported last month.
Gavoka wrote on social media last month that he had made the location of the embassy in Jerusalem a
non negotiable matter in our coalition agreement
Citing Jewish biblical roots, Israel deems Jerusalem its indivisible capital. That status has not won wide recognition abroad, and Palestinians want the east of the city – which Israel captured in a 1967 war, and is the site of major Jewish, Christian and Muslim shrines – as capital of their hoped-for future State.