Colombia’s decision to recognize Palestine as a sovereign independent state is irreversible, claimed President Ivan Duque on Monday.
The decision, which was made by the outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos the day before leaving office last month is protected by constitutional powers and therefore cannot be repealed, affirmed the current head of state.
“The President of the Republic is authorized to handle the foreign relations of the country,” Duque told local media.
Santos’ last-minute decision caught many by surprise with Colombia traditionally allying itself with Israel and the United States, the South American country’s main weapons providers.
The Israeli embassy said on Twitter that it was “very surprised and disappointed” by the last-minute decision and said the recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state was “a slap in the face of a faithful ally.”
According to former Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin, Duque told his predecessor to “go ahead” with the decision.
But the new president has claimed that there should have been more debate and analysis surrounding the decision that may have implications for Colombia’s close relationship with the US.
“It hurt to not have a more institutional discussion. President Santos told me that he had made that decision, but it is irreversible; we would have gained more with further analysis, but we should be part of the solution, not the problem,” said Duque.
US President Donald Trump moved the US embassy to Jerusalem earlier this year, spurring violent clashes between Palestinian civilians and Israeli security forces that left dozens of protesters dead.
Duque said during his election campaign that he would follow suit and also move the Colombian embassy, but backtracked after protests.
Less than 24 hours before Duque took office, Colombia formally informed both the United Nations and the Palestinian authorities that it had recognized Palestine as a sovereign state.
His latest remarks on the issue clarify that he will not be rolling back on the decision that is likely to aggravate the hard-liners in his right-wing Democratic Center Party that have taken a pro-Israel stance in the debate.