Finalizing Peace Talks Not Prerequisite to Recognition of Palestinian State, says UK Official

RAMALLAH, July 30, 2015 (WAFA) – British Consul General to Jerusalem Alastair McPhail Thursday affirmed that the British government will recognize an independent state of Palestine at the right time and shall not wait until finalizing peace talks between the Palestinian and Israeli sides.

In an exclusive interview with WAFA, McPhail said that not following the recommendation of the House of Commons to recognize the State of Palestine so far does not mean that the issue is not important to the British government.

He explained that the government is aware of the importance of recognizing a Palestinian state, and is certainly going to do so at the right time.

Members of the Parliament in Britain’s lower house of parliament voted by 274 to 12 to pass a non-binding motion to recognize a Palestinian state. The motion read, ‘This House believes that the Government should recognize the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution.’

However, the vote remains symbolic and has no practical impact on the policy of the British government.

McPhail assured Palestinians that Britain would like to see an independent state on the borders of 1967 with Jerusalem as a mutual capital and a fair solution to the issue of refugees. He said, this is the official position of the British government and it will recognize a Palestinian state when the time is right in order to serve the peace process.

He explained that conditioning the recognition with finalizing the peace talks equals informing the Palestinians that if you do not resume negotiations, you will not have a state and this is not the position of Britain. However, as McPhail noted, the timing remains unclear yet, but the goal is to serve the peace process.

He noted that the position of the British government is very advanced in comparison to a number of the 28 members of the European Union, making reference to Sweden’s recognition of Palestine which took place before it joined the EU.

In this regard, the Consul General emphasized his government’s concern over the ongoing announcement of new settlements’ activities and the risks such activities pose on the two-state solution.

He considered settlement activities to be the biggest obstacle for the peace process, noting that settlements are illegal and Britain will continue to discuss mechanisms to put an end to settlements’ expansion. Some of these measures include denying settlements’ products from any privileges offered by British trade agreements in particular and EU agreements in general.

McPhail told WAFA that the EU is currently concentrating on two aspects; the first is to avoid any unilateral steps that hinder the peace talks and the second is to offer the two sides great privileges should a peaceful agreement is reached.

He further discussed few issues including the reconciliation and the role of the international community bringing it to an end, affirming that reaching a solution for the division is an international obligation.

McPhail said that the government is worried about the situation through which the peace process and the two-state solution are going through, which is clear in the statements of a large number of British ministers including Foreign Minister Philip Hammond.

He also expressed his concern over the situation in Jerusalem during last year, not because of the war only, but because of the tensions in the city and the gruesome killing of 17-year-old Mohammad Abu Khudeir.