Recognition of Palestine’s statehood : SL should follow Norway, etc., – former top Lankan diplomat



H. M. G. S. Palihakkara

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Retired Foreign Secretary H. M. G. S. Palihakkara says Sri Lanka shouldn’t hesitate to recongise a Palestine state formally against the backdrop of Spain, Ireland and Norway having done so already.The veteran Foreign Service officer was responding to The Island query regarding what Sri Lanka’s response should be to the raging Gaza conflict.

Asked to explain the developing situation, Palihakkara said Sri Lanka’s position with regard to Palestinian statehood ought to be clear because Sri Lanka recognised that status more than three decades ago. Norway and Spain have been members of NATO-North Atlantic Treaty Organization since 1949 and 1982, respectively.

“Sri Lanka, in fact, was among the early responders in establishing diplomatic relations and an Embassy of Palestine in Colombo,” the former Permanent Representative to the UN said.

Commenting on the recent developments both in and outside parliament in the wake of Hamas attack mounted on Israel on 07 October last year and the latter’s response, Palihakkara said: “What stands out in this issue now is that there is rather a clear and present multi-party support for the Palestinian cause cutting across many political divides in this country. There continues to be a large measure of consensus across the isles of the legislature enabling successive Sri Lankan governments of different ideological hues to consistently support statehood, self-determination free of foreign occupation for the Palestinian people based on the ‘two states solution’ which also enjoys wide international support.”

The unprecedented move by Spain, Ireland and Norway could set in motion a new dynamic, the expert commented.Acknowledging that the coordinated move has somewhat shaken the US-led conventional Western posture on

peace in the Middle East in general and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular, Palihakkara explained that the usual Western stance was that peaceful and secure two states must emerge at the end of a process of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Palihakkara mentioned the efforts made by Norway to work out an agreement between Israel and Palestine some time back.

The issue at hand is – will that posture now face a reboot calling for international recognition of two States first leading to peace between the two nations within secure boundaries. “Israeli intransigence and the devastation in Gaza may cause this re-sequencing especially if more European countries break rank with the usual Western posture and join Norway, Spain, and Ireland plus 140 odd other countries of the world.”

Palihakkara pointed out that Norwegian FM Espen Barth Eide at a recent press conference declared that if present double standards continued, it would undermine the ‘rules-based international order’, a rebuke to their NATO partners who while preaching human rights to some, protect impunity by others.