Colombia reviews decision to recognize Palestinian state

"The government will cautiously examine its implications and will act according to international law."

August 9, 2018 03:33
3 minute read.
President Ivan Duque and Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez celebrate after they win the presidentia

President Ivan Duque and Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez celebrate after they win the presidential election in Bogota on Sunday. (photo credit: ANDRES STAPFF/REUTERS)


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Colombia’s Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes said the newly installed government would review a surprising declaration by outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos, that the Latin American country recognized Palestine as a state.

If the decision holds, Colombia would become the 137th nation to recognize Pal - estinian statehood.

President Ivan Duque took office on Tuesday and was informed of the decision only this week.

“Given possible omissions that could come to light about the way in which this decision was taken by the outgoing president, the government will cautiously examine its implications and will act according to international law,” Holmes said in a state - ment.

Representatives from the Palestinian Authority and Israel were in Colombia this week to mark Duque’s inauguration, as was US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had initially been scheduled to attend, but canceled because of the security situation. Instead Israel was represented by Regional Cooperation Minister Tzahi Hanegbi.

Before taking office, Duque had spoken of possibly moving the country’s embassy to Jerusalem. Two other Latin American countries, Guatemala and Paraguay, have already followed the US lead in relocating their embassy.

The Israeli embassy in Bogota said it was surprised and disappointed.

“We ask the Colombian government to reverse the decision made by the previous administration in its last days, which contravenes the close relations, extensive cooperation in vital areas and interests of both countries,” it said in a statement posted to its Twitter account.

The Foreign Ministry has yet to release a statement. The United States Mission to the UN also had no comment.

The Palestinian Authority said on Wednesday that Santos handed PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki an official letter of Colombia’s decision to recognize the Palestinian state.

According to the PA, the Colombian president told Malki that the decision was “merited” and a “necessity.”

The PA quoted Santos as saying that he had discussed the decision with his successor, Ivan Duque, who agreed with the move to recognize the Palestinian state.

The PA also quoted the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, Maria Angela Holguin, as saying that she had received the agreement of her replacement to the decision.

“This decision comes after an intensive effort made by the foreign minister of the State of Palestine over a period of several years,” the PA Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“It also came as a result of efforts made by the Palestinian diplomatic mission to Colombia. This is a special diplomatic achievement, which is added to several diplomatic achievements made by the Foreign Ministry of the State of Palestine on instructions and under the supervision of President Mahmoud Abbas.”

On Tuesday Malki attended Duque’s inauguration as a representative of Abbas. Malki congratulated the new president and called on him to bolster relations between his country and the Palestinians. He also called on Duque to visit the PA-controlled territories.

Malki also met with Holmes and his top aides and discussed with them the latest developments in the Palestinian arena.

Santos’s decision comes as the Palestinian Authority continues to push to be recognized as a UN member state, a move that would need UN Security Council approval. To date, the PA has yet to secure approval from the US, which has veto status at the council. It also lacks European Union support for such a move.

In 2012, Colombia abstained from the UN General Assembly vote to upgrade the Palestinian status at the UN to that of a non-member state.

It also abstained in December from a vote by the 193-member UN General Assembly on a resolution calling for the United States to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. US President Donald Trump had threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that voted in favor.

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