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Israel surprised by Colombia’s recognition of Palestine

The government of Colombia recognised Palestine as a sovereign state on Wednesday.

In a letter addressed to Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, dated 3 August, former Colombian Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín said that then-President Juan Manuel Santos decided to recognise Palestine “as a free, independent and sovereign state”.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it was surprised by the media reports and was seeking an explanation from the new Colombian government. Holguín said in a television interview that the new president, Ivan Duque, was not only informed but agreed to the decision to recognise Palestine.

Colombia’s Vice President and Foreign Minister, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, said on Thursday they would review President Santos’ recognition of Palestine, but acknowledged it was legal. “Given possible omissions that could come to light about the way in which this decision was taken by the outgoing president, the government will cautiously examine its implications and will act according to international law,” he said.

Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez met with Israel’s ambassador in Bogota, Marco Sermoneta, and reiterated that Colombia values the “strategic importance” of its ties with Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to visit Colombia and attend President Ivan Duque’s inauguration on Tuesday, but on 2 August he unexpectedly cancelled his visit, citing the volatile security situation along the Gaza border. Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi travelled to Bogota to attend the inauguration.

The Palestininian representative in Colombia said on Wednesday: “We thank the Colombian government for this decision and we are sure that it will contribute significantly to generating the necessary conditions in the search for peace in the Middle East.”

Colombia is the last South American country to recognise Palestine. It abstained in the vote to condemn the US administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last year. In 2012 the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status from a non-member observer entity to a non-member observer state.