Colombia's President Santos starts Monday official visit to Israel and Palestine

Santos starts Monday official visit to Israel and Palestine

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3:42 pm |June 8, 2013


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The trip will highlight Colombia's interest to maintain good ties with both parties.

The visit itself does not deal with the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, but it inevitably comes around every table conversation. That not only because each party guests brought before his central focus as to why the stagnation of the peace process and what is the fair solution to the conflict, but to a very specific point involving the President Santos: Colombia is one of the only two Latin American countries (with Panama), who said "yes" to the recognition of Palestine as a UN observer state when the Palestinian Authority took the issue to the General Assembly.

Colombia chose to abstain, instead putting the emphasis on the need for Israel and Palestine resolve themselves into direct negotiations, the outstanding issues. This, despite the fact that since 1996 has diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority, a Palestinian representation works in Bogotá and even though the visit of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to Bogota.

Santos, who visited Israel a few years ago when he was Minister of Defense of Alvaro Uribe and about two decades ago, when he was Minister of Economy, certainly hear the Israeli version of the situation, both President Shimon Peres mouth (Monday) as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Wednesday). In Ramallah, where he will on Tuesday, the Palestinian version receive firsthand, when meeting with Abbas.Presumably, the appointment shall be accompanied by a call to Colombia to recognize Palestine as a UN observer state, although not Palestinian Foreign Ministry pronounced on the matter. "I do not anticipate as this is handled by the Presidency," Husni told TIME Abdel-Wahed, Head of Latin America in the Palestinian Foreign Ministry. However, he noted that "hopefully in the visit of President Santos will give a step forward."

In Jerusalem, meanwhile, the Director of South America in the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Boaz Rodkin, stressed the importance of recognized Palestinian state is reached through direct talks between the parties. "I can not speak for Colombia but I have understood, based on the number of statements that Colombia does believe in a solution of two countries, of a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel as a Jewish country," said Rodkin this newspaper. "We believe that to reach this solution must be done through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and I think it is also the position of President."

On the Palestinian side, they claim to be convinced that the recognition of Palestine as a state would contribute to the peace process. "The fact that they recognize the State of Palestine, does not mean they are enemies of the State of Israel," said Abdel Wahed Manager. "Nor we ask that enemisten with Israel. This is our message to our Colombian friends ".

During the visit, signing a declaration regarding the Free Trade Agreement between Israel and Colombia, which negotiations have actually completed, but whose exact text is now in the hands of lawyers and legal advisors.Both sides hope to sign before year end.

Separately, before leaving Santos privately also visit the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank, in order to go to the Basilica of the Nativity, built on the site on which, according to Christian belief, Jesus was born.

TIME Correspondent 


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