ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 45

Lanka for full diplomatic ties with Palestine

Foreign Ministry working out logistics to send ambassador by next month

The government has decided to have full diplomatic relations with Palestine by sending an ambassador there, Foreign Ministry officials said.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Hussein Bhaila said yesterday that President Rajapaksa wanted the matter expedited and they were hopeful of posting a Sri Lankan ambassador there as early as next month.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been a long standing champion of the Palestinian cause, and has headed the Sri Lanka-Palestine Friendship Association for many years.

Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona said already 28 diplomatic missions, including that of the EU were operating in Palestine. The Americans too had an Interest Section in the main West Bank town of Ramallah, where the Palestine Authority is based.

Dr Kohona said the biggest problem in establishing an embassy there was that years of violence had left its infrastructure in tatters, while Mr. Bhaila said they were trying to work out the logistics.

Palestinians have been operating a diplomatic mission in Colombo for nearly three decades. Its present ambassador Dr. Anwar H-Al-Agha was not available for comment as he was away on holiday. When Sri Lanka restored full diplomatic relations with Israel during President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s tenure by posting Mahinda Bandusena as our Ambassador in Tel Aviv, there was no attempt to have a similar tie up with the Palestinians.

Israel’s readiness to supply Sri Lanka with military equipment at a time when there was a virtual Western-led embargo on sale of arms to Sri Lanka, influenced Colombo at that time.

One of the reasons attributed by the government for the sacking of Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, was that he caused embarrassment to President Rajapaksa when Sri Lanka did not vote at a crucial UN resolution condemning Israel. At the time of voting Mr. Samaraweera had reportedly arranged for Sri Lanka’s envoy to be absent from the venue.

Mr. Evan Owen, Press Attache of the US embassy in Colombo commenting on the move to have diplomatic relations with Palestine said, “Sri Lanka is a sovereign state and as such Sri Lanka can choose who it wants to have diplomatic relations with.”

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.