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Arab League tells Brazil's Bolsonaro Israel embassy move could harm ties

Arab League tells Brazil's Bolsonaro Israel embassy move could harm ties
FILE PHOTO: Brazil's President-elect Jair Bolsonaro reacts as he speaks to media at the Army Headquarters in Brasilia, Brazil December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Adriano Machado -
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ADRIANO MACHADO(Reuters)
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BRASILIA (Reuters) – The Arab League has warned Brazil’s right-wing President-elect Jair Bolsonaro in a letter that moving Brazil’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem could harm relations with Arab countries, a diplomat said on Monday.

The letter to Bolsonaro from the league’s Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit was delivered to Brazil’s foreign ministry, according to the Arab diplomat who asked not to be named.

Ambassadors from Arab nations were expected to meet in Brasilia on Tuesday to discuss Bolsonaro’s plan to follow U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to recognise Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.

Such a move would be a sharp shift in Brazilian foreign policy, which has traditionally backed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The embassy move has been praised as “historic” by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who plans to attend Bolsonaro’s presidential inauguration, according to the Brazilian’s transition team.

“The Arab world has much respect for Brazil and we want not just to maintain relations but improve and diversify them. But the intention of moving the embassy to Jerusalem could harm them,” the diplomat said.

Brazil is one of the world’s top halal meat exporters and that trade could run into trouble if Bolsonaro angers Arab nations by moving the embassy. That could hurt exports to key Middle Eastern markets for Brazilian beef and poultry producers BRF SA <BRFS3.SA> and JBS SA <JBSS3.SA>.

Halal meat is butchered and prepared as prescribed by Muslim law.

The meat exporters lobby has pressed the incoming president not to move the embassy, and he appeared to change his mind.

But the president-elect’s son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, speaking after recently visiting Trump advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner at the White House, said the embassy move was “not a question of if, but of when.”

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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