Suriname backtracks on Jerusalem embassy citing budget

PARAMARIBO (Reuters) - Suriname's president said on Thursday the South American country did not have the funds to build an embassy in Israel, reversing an announcement made last month.

"There is no budget for setting up an embassy of Suriname in Israel," President Chandrikapersad 'Chan' Santokhi told the National Assembly.

Last month, Suriname's foreign minister confirmed to Reuters the country would open an embassy in Jerusalem, a move that likely would have stirred controversy given the city's role in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The confirmation drew criticism from some members of the Surinamese parliament.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, as the capital of a future state. Israel regards all of the city, including the eastern sector it annexed after the 1967 war, as its capital.

Currently, only the United States, Honduras, Guatemala and Kosovo have embassies in Jerusalem rather than Tel Aviv.

Suriname appointed a non-resident ambassador, Stevanus Noordzee, to Israel in March. Santokhi said Noordzee "will continue to serve, support, give substance to the cooperative relationship, from Suriname."

Santokhi did not rule out the future establishment of an embassy in Israel, but said the country needed "to receive a report (from the foreign minister) and see what the findings are and the recommendations are, and to take follow-up steps based on that."

Suriname, which has a small Jewish community, is some 14% Muslim.

(Reporting by Ank Kuipers; Writing by Brendan O'Boyle; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)