WASHINGTON – In a symbolic gesture, the Palestinians on Tuesday raised their flag over the PLO diplomatic mission in Washington for the first time, as they continue a push for international recognition that is complicating the Obama administration’s efforts to restart stalled Mideast peace talks.
At a brief ceremony, the Palestinian’s chief envoy to the United States, Maen Areikat, hoisted the red, green, white and black banner outside the PLO General Delegation office. He expressed hope it would help in the Palestinian quest to win support for independence with or without a peace deal with Israel.
“We are proud to see the flag,” Areikat said. “It’s about time that this flag that symbolizes the struggle of the Palestinian people for self-determination and statehood is raised in the United States. We hope that this will help in the international efforts to provide recognition for the Palestinian state.”
The envoy acknowledged the flag-raising has no practical effect for U.S. policy, but said it was an “important, significant step” toward seeking recognition from the United States and others. He said he hoped the Obama administration would move to recognize Palestine as an independent state, something the U.S. has said it will not do until there is a negotiated peace deal with Israel.
Palestinian statehood is “an international interest, a U.S. interest and in the interest of all the parties in the Middle East,” Areikat said.
The PLO office has had permission from the State Department to fly the flag since last August, when the mission was upgraded from a representative office to a general delegation, but had been awaiting permission from the building’s owner before displaying it, he said.