Palestinian representatives on Sunday welcomed Colombia’s decision to elevate Palestine’s status to “diplomatic mission,” but asked the South American country to fully recognize statehood of the territory occupied by neighboring Israel.
Colombia granted Palestine’s representatives the status of a temporary diplomatic mission in Bogota. The new status extends the privileges enjoyed by the country’s delegates on Colombian territories.
This resolution could be followed by the establishment of an official embassy (making it a permanent diplomatic mission), if the Colombian Government accepts full independence of the country.
At the ceremony in Colombia’s capital the Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Maliki described the decision as “a step towards total recognition and creation of an embassy.”
“There are countries which make the decision to recognize Palestine immediately, and others which take their time and do so in phases,” said al-Maliki with reference to Colombia, the only South American country yet to consider Palestine an independent state.
Al-Maliki admitted he is aware that Colombia has traditionally maintained close diplomatic relations with Israel, which “has provided it with military assistance and arms in the most difficult times for the country.”
Despite the “particularity of the Colombian case”, the Palestinian minister said he saw the will of the President Juan Manuel Santos’ administration to endorse the independent state of Palestine.
“It isn’t easy for Colombia to simply say one day: ‘We are going to accept all Israel has done [wrong] and we are going to recognize the state of Palestine,” admitted al-Maliki.
However, the Palestinian diplomat expressed his belief that Colombia “will make the decision soon, not only because it sympathizes with the struggle of Palestinian people, but out of the principle not to ignore “the reality of a nation fighting for its self-determination and independence under a military occupation.”
Therefore, Al-Maliki is confident that today it is possible to “launch an initiative inside the House of Representatives and through mass organizations” so that the country begins debating the potential recognition of the Palestinian statehood.
Al-Maliki then sent a strong message to Santos and his administration by saying that Colombia “has to decide what is more important to it, its values and principles as a country or its relations and interests.”
Colombia has so far failed to offer its support for the admission of Palestine as a member state of the United Nations and abstained from voting, but has offered to find ways to encourage a direct dialogue with Israel.