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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2644

Has SAARC Forgotten Palestine

By Fadi Zahran in West Bank

At this moment when SAARC Foreign Ministers are meeting in Colombo this would be the ideal opportunity to draw their attention to the question of the disposition of SAARC towards Palestine.

It is true that SAARC is an association for regional cooperation but unfortunately it appeared to have set aside an important international issue like Palestine on technical grounds.

SAARC represents 1.5 billion people from 8 countries and if China is admitted it would be 2.5 billion. There is no doubt that vast majority of peoples from these countries are concerned about the situation in Palestine specially after Gaza invasion.

At the same time it is pertinent to raise this question at this moment specially because the incumbent head of SAARC is President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka whose track record as a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause is unbeatable. He had been the President of Sri Lanka Committee for Solidarity with Palestine for 28 years from 1975.

I decided to raise this issue in support of a fervent appeal to the international community made by Dr. Rafique Hussenie, the indefatigable Chief of Staff to President Mahmoud Abbas during a tour he organized to visit some endangered areas around Jerusalem. On 24/02. The point he wanted raise is very clear. Jerusalem is being encroached by Israel to make it a Jewish city so that East Jerusalem cannot be made the capital of the future State of Palestine.

Taking part in the tour were diplomats accredited to Palestine, officials of UN and other international agencies and media. After seeing the construction work going on in Isavia and then Al Eizaria where Police stations, separation walls, by pass roads for Israeli settlers,Israeli controlled tunnels and roads have come up it became very clear to all that Israel will never agree to make East Jerusalem the capital of the new Palestinian state.

Since the stress was on the support of the international community I raised this matter with a few diplomats taking part in the tour. During my interview with Dr.T.Jayasinghe, the Representative for Sri Lanka I raised the question of SAARC not discussing matters connected with Palestine. He says that SAARC is duty bound to be sensitive to the Palestinian issue and specially after the invasion of Gaza.As far as President of Sri Lanka is concerned he has discussed this matters in detail during the recent visit of President Abbas to Sri Lanka. He further said that since SAARC is mainly concerned with regional issues in the fields of economics, trade etc political issues generally take a back stage but this does not mean that SAARC is not alive to the Palestinian problem. SAARC countries have always supported Palestine at all international fora.he says.

Of the SAARC countries only India and Sri Lanka have established Missions in Palestine and it is interesting to note that the roads in front of these Missions have been named as Mahathma Gandhi Street and H.E.Mahinda Rajapaksa Road respectively.

Dr. Jayasinghe suggests that other SAARC countries should think of establishing at least Interest Sections in Palestine as an expression of solidarity and this would show that SAARC countries are behind Palestine.

- Asian Tribune -

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