Colombia recognizes Palestine as sovereign state

Bogota, an ally of the United States, has historically maintained close ties with Israel. (AP)
Updated 09 August 2018
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Colombia recognizes Palestine as sovereign state

  • Israeli PM had been scheduled to arrive in Colombia on Monday but called off the trip at the last minute
  • The US doesn't recognize a Palestinian state, and Colombia long refrained from doing so due its close ties with Washington

BOGOTA: Colombia recognized Palestine as a sovereign state in the days before new President Ivan Duque took office, according to a letter from the foreign ministry made public on Wednesday.
“I would like to inform you that in the name of the government of Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos has decided to recognize Palestine as a free, independent and sovereign state,” said the letter dated August 3.
The letter was signed by Santos’s foreign minister Maria Angela Holguin.
New Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes said he would review the “implications” of the previous government’s decision, in accordance with international law and good diplomatic practice.
“It is a priority for this government to maintain cooperative relations with its allies and friends, and to contribute to international peace and security,” Holmes said.
Before the announcement, Colombia had been one of only two countries in the region, along with Panama, not to recognize Palestinian statehood.
Bogota, an ally of the United States, has historically maintained close ties with Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been scheduled to arrive in Colombia on Monday but called off the trip at the last minute, saying he needed to focus on developments along his country’s border with the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian mission in Bogota told AFP that they were told of the decision last Friday. It welcomed the move by Bogota as evidence of “profound efforts to reach a rapprochement.”


Indian court eases firecracker ban even as pollution soars

Updated 23 October 2018
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Indian court eases firecracker ban even as pollution soars

  • Diwali festival is on November 7
  • Every winter, air pollution in Delhi soars as cooler air traps harmful particles from the various emissions

NEW DELHI: India’s top court on Tuesday eased a ban on fireworks for a major Hindu festival despite air pollution in New Delhi and other cities again reaching danger levels.
The Supreme Court, which last year banned firecrackers for the Diwali festival, rejected a new call for a ban in the capital amidst growing concern over pollution.
Firecrackers set off for the Hindu festival of lights add to the toxic mix created by farmers burning crop stubble, diesel engines, coal-fired power plants and industrial emissions.
The World Health Organization in May listed 14 Indian cities, including Delhi, in the world’s top 15 with the dirtiest air.
Ahead of Diwali on November 7, the Supreme Court ordered that only reduced smoke fireworks — so-called ‘green firecrackers’ — could be sold and that this must be through licensed traders. No fireworks can be sold online, it said.
The court has also set a two hour window from 8:00pm to 10:00pm for the lighting of crackers on Diwali.
“It needs to be enforced strictly,” Gopal Sankarnarayan, a lawyer for the petitioners told NDTV television.
Last year, the Supreme Court suspended the licenses of all firecracker sellers in Delhi for one month because of the pollution crisis which leaves the Indian capital’s 20 million residents gasping for clean air during the winter months.
However, many ignored the ban and purchased crackers illegally or brought out old stocks.
Every winter, air pollution in Delhi soars as cooler air traps harmful particles from the various emissions.
Smog has climbed in recent weeks as temperatures have fallen and smoke from burning wheat fields in neighboring states has reached the capital, mingling with urban pollutants.