WASHINGTON — In a symbolic gesture, the Palestinians on Tuesday raised their flag for the first time over the PLO diplomatic mission in Washington, as they continue a push for international recognition that is complicating the Obama administration's efforts to restart stalled Middle East peace talks.
At a brief ceremony, the Palestinian's chief envoy to the United States, Maen Areikat, hoisted the red, green, white and black banner outside the PLO General Delegation office. He expressed hope it would help in the Palestinian quest to win support for independence with or without a peace deal with Israel.
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"We are proud to see the flag," Areikat said. "It's about time that this flag that symbolizes the struggle of the Palestinian people for self-determination and statehood is raised in the United States. We hope that this will help in the international efforts to provide recognition for the Palestinian state."
The envoy acknowledged the flag-raising has no practical effect for US
policy but said it was an "important, significant step" toward seeking
recognition from the United States and others. He said he hoped the
Obama administration would move to recognize Palestine as an independent
state, which the United States has said it would do only after a
negotiated peace deal is reached with Israel.
Palestinian statehood is "an international interest, a US interest and
in the interest of all the parties in the Middle East," Areikat said.
The PLO office has had permission from the State Department to fly the
flag since last August, when the mission was upgraded from a
representative office to a general delegation but had been awaiting
permission from the building's owner before displaying it, he said.
The United States opposes any unilateral Palestinian move to establish
statehood, but several other nations, notably in Latin America, recently
have recognized Palestine, and the Palestinians are seeking broader
support to bring statehood before the United Nations in September.
In the meantime, the Palestinians are continuing to push for a UN
Security Council resolution condemning Israel for continuing settlement
activity in the West Bank.
Combined with the push for international recognition, the resolution
puts the Obama administration in a difficult position. The United States
is opposed to the construction of Israeli housing settlements but at
the same time does not want to endorse a resolution that is critical
only of Israel, the main Mideast ally of the United States.
US officials are considering whether to veto the resolution should it come to a vote in the council.