Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk said in a speech Thursday that his country recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s “one and only capital”, and is preparing to open a branch of its embassy in the city next year.
The Eastern European country’s top diplomat made the comments at an event marking 30 years of Israel-Ukraine ties.
Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who grew up in Ukraine, said he hoped the country would open a branch in the contested city.
According to the Times of Israel, Elkin presented Korniychuk with a 2,700–year-old artefact bearing the word “Jerusalem” in Hebrew at Thursday’s event, after which the Ukrainian diplomat made the unprepared remarks.
In a clarification he made later, Korniychuk said the plans were not official, but that he had discussed the matter with Ukraine’s leader in October.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is expected to visit Israel next year, spoke earlier on Wednesday at the two-day virtual forum celebrating Israeli and Ukrainian relations.
“We know what it means to defend one’s own state and land with weapons in hand, at the cost of our own lives,” said the leader, whose country is locked in a simmering conflict with Russia over its territorial integrity.
“Both Ukrainians and Jews value freedom, and they work equally for the future of our states to become to our liking, and not the future which others want for us. Israel is often an example for Ukraine,” he added.
Former US President Donald Trump moved the US’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018. Guatemala and Kosovo soon followed, while Serbia has declared its intent to move theirs.
US President Joe Biden has said he does not plan to move the US embassy back to Tel Aviv, but says he will move forward with plans to reopen a US diplomatic office in occupied East Jerusalem to serve Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Both the Israeli and Palestinian leadership have long claimed Jerusalem as their capital, an issue neither side has been willing to concede.
Israel deems all of Jerusalem its undivided capital – a status not recognised internationally.
It captured the city’s east, along with the West Bank and Gaza, in the 1967 Middle East war and has occupied the territories ever since.