Palestinians raise flag at Washington diplomatic mission

PA's chief envoy to US says move is an "important, significant step" toward seeking recognition from the United States and others; Palestinians continue to push for UNSC resolution condemning West Bank settlements.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
January 18, 2011 21:15
2 minute read.
Palestinian flag in front of dirt

Palestinian flag 311 AP. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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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.

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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.

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