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Israel 'surprised' by reports of Columbia recognition of Palestinian state

The General Assembly voted September 10 to allow the flags of Palestine, pictured, and the Vatican -- both have observer status -- to be raised at the world body alongside those of member states
Abbas Momani (AFP/File)
The letter was signed by Santos's foreign minister Maria Angela Holguin

Israel's foreign ministry said on Thursday that it was "surprised" by media reports saying Columbia decided to recognize the State of Palestine.

"We are awaiting explanations from the new government, which is examining the issue," the ministry said in a statement.

Colombia's incoming foreign minister said on Wednesday that his country will reconsider the decision to recognize a Palestinian state, after the the current government acknowledged its status as "free, independent and sovereign," in a letter from August 3rd.

"In view of possible omissions that could arise from the way in which this decision was made by the outgoing president, the government will carefully examine the implications and will act in accordance with international law," Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said.

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.

The letter was signed by Santos's foreign minister Maria Angela Holguin.

"We are aware of the hardships of the Palestinian people and we think that in order to help creating a Palestinian state there has to be unity within the Palestinian people," Holguin wrote.

"As much as the Palestinians have a right for an independent state so does Israel have the right to live in peace."

Raul ARBOLEDA (AFP/File)

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.

Alexander Montero, political adviser to the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Bogota, said the decision was taken after a series of conversations many Colombia governments over the past 22 years.

“These types of recognitions are elements that help promote peace, since they allow for the protection of the Palestinian population, or at least they foster mechanisms that try to guarantee their protection," Montero told Anadolu Agency.

The Israeli Embassy in Bogota said they were "very surprised" and called the move "a slap in the face."

"We ask the Colombia government to reverse the previous government's decision in its last days which is contrary to the close relations and cooperation between the countries and interests of both peoples," the embassy statement continued.

The decision was also criticized by Colombia's Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez who said Santos had broken his promise to Israel not to recognize Palestine, also calling on Duque to review the announcement.

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."

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