Oman to open embassy in Palestinian territories’ West Bank: foreign ministry

Oman is opening a new diplomatic mission in the West Bank in line with its ‘support for the brotherly Palestinian people.’ (AFP)
Updated 26 June 2019

Oman to open embassy in Palestinian territories’ West Bank: foreign ministry

  • A delegation from Oman’s foreign ministry will be going to Ramallah for the purpose

MUSCAT: Oman said Wednesday that it will open an embassy in the Palestinian territories in support of the Palestinian people, in a first for a Gulf Arab state.
The announcement coincided with a US-led economic workshop in Bahrain to unveil a Middle East peace plan which is not expected to recognize an independent Palestinian state.
“In continuation of Oman’s support for the Palestinian people, the Sultanate of Oman has decided to open a diplomatic mission at the level of embassy in the State of Palestine,” the foreign ministry said on Twitter.
A delegation from the ministry will travel to Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, to take the necessary measures to open the embassy, it said.
The announcement was cautiously welcomed by a senior Palestinian official.
“We think maybe first of all it will help us educate the Omani government as to the real nature of the occupation and also working with Palestine directly,” Hanan Ashrawi told journalists.
But she warned Oman against using the new embassy as a step toward establishing formal relations with Israel.
“If this has a political price attached then certainly there will be ramifications,” she said.
Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab countries to have established diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.
But Oman was the first Gulf state to receive Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in October 2018.
A US ally bordering Saudi Arabia and Yemen, Oman has frequently served as a mediator in the Arab world.
Elizabeth Dickinson, senior analyst with the International Crisis Group think tank, believes the step by Oman will enhance its diplomatic role.
“The good offices of Omani diplomacy have averted regional crises in the past and would be welcome in the Israel-Palestine context,” Dickinson told AFP.
“Muscat is one of the few remaining regional powers that can truly talk to all sides — a vitally important role in a moment of such heightened regional tension,” she said.
Oman is not participating in the Bahrain workshop, where US President Donald Trump’s administration hopes to raise $50 billion of investments to improve the economic conditions of Palestinians.
The conference is boycotted by the Palestinian Authority which fears the US administration is dangling money to impose pro-Israeli political solutions.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, is leading the “Peace to Prosperity” initiative which he called the “Opportunity of the Century” for the Palestinians.
But Kushner, a staunch supporter of Israel, said that the Palestinians needed to accept the economic framework before any eventual progress on reaching a long-elusive comprehensive peace deal.
Last year, Oman’s state minister for foreign affairs, Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, held talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah.
He also made a rare visit by an Arab official to the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque complex in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
“Now Oman will have a direct presence in Ramallah. Muscat has an uncanny ability to see a middle road when most others are picking sides,” Dickinson said.
Muscat has previously mediated in regional disputes including US-Iranian tensions and in the conflict in Yemen.


British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

Updated 21 January 2020

British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

  • Palestinian envoy welcomes cross-party call ahead of visit by Prince Charles

LONDON: A group of British MPs has called for the UK to recognize the state of Palestine ahead of a visit by Prince Charles to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a letter to The Times, the MPs, along with figures from think tanks and pressure groups, said the move was long overdue and would help fulfill Britain’s “promise of equal rights for peoples in two states.” 

The call comes as the heir to the British throne travels on Thursday to Israel and the occupied West Bank. 

During the visit, he will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem. 

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

The letter said since 2014, no meaningful progress has been made in the peace process, and Israel’s actions are pushing a two-state solution beyond reach.

“Illegal Israeli settlements, described by the Foreign Office as undermining peace efforts, are expanding,” the letter said.

Among the signatories are Emily Thornberry, a candidate for the Labour Party leadership, and Crispin Blunt, chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council.

Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian envoy to the UK, welcomed the move but said full recognition from the British government should have happened many years ago.

“Recognition doesn’t contradict peacemaking and negotiations,” Zomlot told Arab News, referring to the main argument used by the UK against taking such a step. 

“It reinforces the vision (of a Palestinian state) and a negotiated two-state solution. It should happen now because of the threat of annexation (of Palestinian territory) and the killing of the two-state solution.”

FASTFACT

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

Alistair Carmichael, a Liberal Democrat MP who signed the letter, told Arab News that the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government toward Palestine “makes the achievement of a two-state solution more and more remote with every week that passes.”

He said: “The UK has historic and political obligations toward Israelis and Palestinians. There’s now no longer any good reason not to recognize the state of Palestine.”

A spokesman for Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who also signed the letter, told Arab News: “The fact that this has cross-party support shows the growing desire across Parliament for the recognition of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution.”

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, said the international community needs to finally stand up for the solution that it has had on the table for decades.

Doyle, an Arab News columnist, said the letter is an “indication that many people in British politics think we should be doing this, we should be standing up for the Palestinian right to self-determination, the legal rights, at a time when the state of Israel is doing everything to stop this, to take more land from the Palestinians.”

The letter was timed to coincide with a meeting of European foreign ministers on Monday, who discussed the Middle East peace process.

The Palestinian Authority, which runs parts of the West Bank, has been increasing calls for European countries to recognize the state of Palestine as the US has shifted to a more pro-Israel stance, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017.

Writing in The Guardian on Monday, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Europe could strengthen its role in the peace process if it recognized Palestine.

“European recognition of this state is not only a European responsibility but a concrete way to move towards a just and lasting peace,” he said.

Only nine out of the 28 EU countries have so far recognized Palestine as a state, compared to 138 out of the 193 UN member states.

In 2011, the UK’s then-Foreign Minister William Hague said the British government “reserves the right” to recognize Palestine “at a time of our own choosing, and when it can best serve the cause of peace.”

In 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status to that of “nonmember observer state.”