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New Colombian president: Recognition of Palestine 'irreversible'

Colombia's new President Ivan Duque gestures after receiving the presidential sash during his inauguration ceremony at Bolivar Square in Bogota, on August 7, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Colombia’s new President Ivan Duque says he will not reverse his predecessor’s decision last month to recognize Palestine as a sovereign state.

Duque told a local radio station on Monday that the decision made by Juan Manuel Santos in the last few days of his term in August was “irreversible” because “the president of the republic is the person designated by the constitution to mange foreign relations.”

Any government governs until it is replaced by its successor administration; therefore, Santos’s decision cannot be disputed and will stand, he argued.

The Colombian president, however, said that he would have preferred more debate on the issue, but that he respects the decisions his predecessor made during his tenure.

“We would have benefited from more analyses [about the pros and cons of recognizing Palestine], but we should be part of the solution, not the problem,” Duque said.

Duque said that he believed the so-called two-state solution is the best way out of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“What we, the international community, should not do is be part of the problem, instead, we must be part of the solution. The solution is to form lasting peace, stability, and that the two-state solution will move forward,” he said.

Santos handed a letter to Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki on August 3, saying that Colombia “decided to recognize Palestine as a free, independent and sovereign state.”

Colombia’s Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said in a statement at the time that the new government would “cautiously examine” the “implications” of the decision and would “act according to international law.”

In response, the Israeli embassy in Colombia immediately issued an angry statement, saying it was “deeply disappointed” by the move and demanding that Colombia’s new government reverse the decision.

Up until then, Colombia was the only South American country that did not recognize the State of Palestine.

Palestinians are seeking to create an independent state in the territories of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem al-Quds, with the latter as its capital.

In November 2012, the United Nations General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status from “non-member observer entity” to “non-member observer state” despite strong opposition from Israel.

The Palestinian national flag was also hoisted for the first time at the UN headquarters in New York in September 2015.

However, Palestinian efforts for statehood have been hampered due to Israel’s illegal settlement activities in the occupied lands and Washington’s latest anti-Palestinian measures, among them US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as the “capital” of Israel and relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds.

Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds during the Six-Day War in 1967. It later annexed East Jerusalem al-Quds in a move not recognized by the international community. 

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