US: PLO mission can now fly flag

Despite decision, no upgrade in diplomatic status.

palestinian flag march 248.88 AP (photo credit: )
palestinian flag march 248.88 AP
(photo credit: )
WASHINGTON – The US State Department said Friday that it had not upgraded the status of the PLO mission in Washington, despite a decision to allow it to fly a Palestinian flag and call itself a General Delegation of the PLO.
“There has been no change in the status of the Palestinian mission here in Washington,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. “It operates under guidance provided by the State Department.
It does not have any diplomatic privileges or immunities.”
He indicated that the head of the PLO mission had requested permission to fly the Palestinian flag and change the designation to a general delegation in keeping with the terminology it uses in Canada, Europe and several South American countries.
Crowley did note, however, that the move represents an improvement in US relations with the Palestinian Authority.
The requested moves, he said, “we have granted given the improvement in the relations between the United States and Palestinians.”
He referred to them as having “symbolic value” reflective of those improved relations, but stressed, “They have no meaning under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.”
The changes at the PLO mission come as the US has been pushing the Palestinians to move to direct talks with the Israelis as envoy George Mitchell continues his proxy talks between the parties.
The Palestinians have been demanding parameters and starting points for face-to-face negotiations that Israel has rejected, and the US has increasingly called for the PA to sit with the Israelis.
There have been signs, however, following the visit of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu earlier this month and PA President Mahmoud Abbas before him, that there would be additional gestures to the Palestinians to help pave the way for direct negotiations.
The decision on the PLO mission sparked outrage from Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida), who sent out a statement blasting Abbas for refusing to negotiate with Israel.
“The US rewards his corrupt, autocratic PLO with more symbols of legitimacy, treating it like a sovereign state,” she said. “On the other hand, Israel continues to be an indispensable democratic ally – but the US still refuses to move our embassy to Israel’s chosen capital.”
She concluded, “Instead of giving more undeserved gifts to the PLO, it’s time for us to kick the PLO out of the US once and for all, and move our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, where it belongs.”