Israel to reopen Brazilian consulate, New Zealand embassy

SAO PAULO, Brazil (JTA) — Israel will reopen a consulate in Sao Paulo, Brazil and an embassy in Wellington, New Zealand.

The reopening in Brazil was announced Tuesday by the Sao Paulo Jewish Federation. According to Israel’s ambassador in Brazil, Giora Becher, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called his Brazilian counterpart, Celso Amorim, to share the news. The diplomatic representation will open in early 2010, Becher added.

The embassy in Brasilia had been Israel’s only diplomatic representation in Brazil since the Sao Paulo consulate was closed in 2003 due to budget cuts. The consulate in Rio de Janeiro was shut down in 2002; there are no plans to reopen it.

Besides serving Israeli tourists and business travelers, the consulate in Sao Paulo will also serve Brazilian tourists to Israel, including members of the Jewish community and Christian pilgrims. More than 31,000 Brazilians visited Israel in 2008, up more than 50 percent from the previous year.

The New Zealand embassy was closed in 2002 in the wake of ministry budget cuts. Relations between Israel and New Zealand suffered a blow a year later when two Mossad agents were arrested in New Zealand for using fraudulent passports. Following that affair, the Foreign Ministry promised to reopen the embassy.

Since Ambassador Ruth Kahanov departed New Zealand in October 2002, Israel’s ambassador to Australia, headquartered in Canberra, has been non-resident ambassador to New Zealand (in addition to Papua New Guinea and Fiji). David Zwartz, president of the New Zealand Jewish Council, was appointed honorary Israeli consul in the island nation in the interim but stepped down last year.

A senior Jewish official in Australia, who declined to be named, urged caution, pointing to former foreign minister Silvan Shalom’s pledge in late 2005 to reopen the embassy in Wellington, which never materialized.

Lieberman also announced that Israel will open an embassy in the central Asian country of Turkmenistan.

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