WALID A.M.ABDU ALI
Ansar Mahmood Bhatti
Ambassador of Palestine talks to Centreline and DNA
Mr. Walid A.M. Abu Ali Ambassador of Palestine to Pakistan gave an exclusive interview to Centreline and Diplomatic News Agency (DNA). The ambassador, who is keen to further promote brotherly relations between the two countries, dilated, in detail, upon various aspect of this friendship and mutual cooperation. He also talked about role of OIC, Arab League etc viz a viz Palestine issue.
Your President visited Pakistan few weeks ago. Can you tell us what was the agenda of the visit and how do you see Pakistan’s role towards the Palestinian cause?
Thank you very much for honoring me this opportunity to interview me in regards to Palestinian Embassy and Palestinian community in Pakistan as well as the Palestinian Pakistani relations. Our President Mahmoud Abbas visited Pakistan as a result of an invitation from his brother, Excellency President Asif Ali Zardari. This is the first visit to Pakistan after the recognition of Palestine in United Nations last November 2012. So the visit was a State visit to Pakistan, he updated the Pakistani Leadership on the Political developments in Palestine in terms of Peace Negotiations, Palestinian Reconciliation, the Palestinian Financial Crisis due to the siege on us by Israelis as a result of the recognition at the United Nations, at the same time the purpose of the visit was to share with the Pakistani Leadership in laying down the foundation stone of the Palestinian Embassy in Diplomatic Enclave, Islamabad, as well as to exchange the views towards further strengthening the bilateral relations between Palestine and Pakistan. It was a very successful visit on all levels, the talks and discussions which took place between the two leaderships were very successful.
We believe, Palestine is to build a new embassy inside the diplomatic enclave. Can you update us on this issue?
Yes, during his recent visit to Pakistan, the Foundation stone has been laid for the construction of Palestine Embassy at diplomatic enclave, Islamabad and through the discussion in regards to Construction of Palestine Embassy in Diplomatic Enclave, Government of Pakistan has promised to share the amount of One Million Dollar for its construction. That is a real kind gesture and indeed it will help both the nations to come closer to each other.
Please tell us how the Palestinian people are surviving amid tough embargoes imposed by the Israelis? Is it possible for you to have direct trade with any country?
Actually, the struggle between us and Israelis has been there for the last more than six decades and Israelis control the borders and the border issue is one of the main six obstacles which is to be agreed on the final status negotiations, Israelis still control the borders, we are not free to go in and out of Palestine without the permission of Israeli Authorities. Yes, the Israelis had withdrawn out of Gaza but still Gaza suffers under the siege by Israelis. Same at the West Bank, in between us and our Jordanian Brothers, Israelis are on the borders, so we have to wait until we agree on the final status negotiations, where Palestine will be free and we will be controlling our borders.
As for as direct trade is concerned, yes we do, according the Paris agreement in regards to the facilitation of import and export to Palestinian territories we still go through the Israelis’ borders, but we have signed a lot of trade agreements with many other countries although it has to go through the Israeli borders.
Can you share with us your plans to reach out to the Pakistani people with a view to updating them on the latest Palestine situation besides seeking their support for your cause?
As you know the main problem that we face as Palestinians that we are still under occupation and because of the occupation we do face many obstacles, Pakistan and Pakistani people have always been supportive to Palestine and its people on all levels. During the last six decades, Pakistan had supported Palestine not just on the political level but all International situations and organizations but the main support we received from Pakistan besides that is the educational support, Pakistan has been providing our students the opportunity to study in Pakistani universities equally same as Pakistani students, so far we have over 45, 000 Palestinian students graduated from Pakistani universities in all specialties, and this actually helped us in the creation of the infrastructure of the Palestinian State, the majority of these graduates went back to the country and they worked in all ministries and all institutions, some of them are holding very senior posts, some of them are ministers, some of them are holding key posts within the Palestinian Authority. During the visit of President Abbas to Pakistan two leaderships have agreed to form a committee headed by the two foreign ministers and will have members of many other ministries in both countries that they will be meeting to see how can we expand our relationship in terms of Agriculture, Banking, health, trade and many other areas to look and see the ways of expanding our bilateral relations for the interests of both Palestinians and Pakistanis.
As you know we are in the 21st century and the technology is improving a lot and the whole world has become a very small island, with the social media available at the moment I think it is easy to updated about what is going on very quickly, but meanwhile as an Embassy we are in the process of launching a website which will include some media, political development, security situation, cultural updates for our Pakistani brothers which can be available on the website, where we can increase the knowledge of our Pakistani brothers and the awareness of our Pakistani brothers to be more aware of what’s going on in Palestine.
IF you could share with our readers latest situation vis a vis creation of a Palestinian independent state? Are you satisfied with the role of the international community?
Unfortunately, situation continues to be bad in Palestine due to the Israeli aggression. Yes, the International community has supported us lately at the General Assembly when they voted to Palestine to be recognized as non-member state at the General Assembly, but we believe this is still not enough; the International Community has to manipulate pressure as much as they can to convince the Israeli leadership to go back to negotiations, the International Community has agreed in the two state solution, and agreed to have a time table for the negotiations, which will enable Palestinians to live side by side with Israel in free democratic country similar to any other nation around the world.
In 2002 a Quartet was formed on the Palestine issue in the wake of `escalating conflict. Is that Quartet still in place? Did it achieve objectives `for which it was created?
Yes, it is still in place, but unfortunately they were limited, you know, in achieving the objectives which were expected from this forum, the quartet which included United States of America, Europe, United Nations and Russia, unfortunately with a negative response from the Israeli side they were not able to achieve the objectives which were planned for that forum, reactivating the peace process, reactivating peace negotiations has to consider three main issues:
No. 1, the Israeli measures taken in Jerusalem in terms of changing geography and demography of Jerusalem.
No. 2, the Israeli Government has to stop its activities in terms of settlements, creating and expanding settlements within our territories.
No. 3, prisoners’ issues, which have been very sensitive to our nation, our five thousand prisoners in Israeli custody, who have been there for decades are suffering, they have started hunger strike and they are looking towards their release according to previous agreements between Palestinian Authorities and the Israeli Government. Without Israelis, changing their behavior towards comprehensive peace, permanent peace will never be achieved in the region.
What about the role of OIC and the Arab League. Do you think both these organizations have done enough and are they capable to play any role in terms of creation of an independent Palestinian state?
Clearly say yes, but unfortunately since the Arab Spring started, among our Arab World, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Syria at the moment, all our Arab brothers are busy with their internal issues and we cannot blame them, they are busy with their internal situation and if they are not settled themselves, they cannot provide Palestine with the support needed from them. OIC has been providing support and health especially to our people in Gaza and to other Palestinians as well, we are happy with what they are doing, but still they can do more and we are looking for OIC to be more active to have focus on Palestine and Palestinians. We know that OIC has got a kind of an International Role, the Muslims around the world are desperate for aids and assistance through OIC, but we still believe that OIC can do more for Palestine.
We do hope that if Muslims Countries are united, I am sure we can achieve more but unfortunately, even with the OIC role I mean, Muslim countries to be, the whole International Community is benefitting of dividing Muslim World and keeping them busy in their internal issues, the unity of the Muslim Countries is important, the more they united the more support we get to Palestine and to all Muslims around the world. We do hope to have more active role for the OIC and for the Muslim World to get all the Muslims united together and they can be very effective power in International World.
Anything you would like to add?
The only thing I want to add that I am very honoured and proud to be in Pakistan, and I personally believe that Palestine is the heart of any Pakistani regardless of who they are, whether they are poor or rich, educated or uneducated, the Pakistani people have been in favour and very supportive to Palestine and Palestinians, I will be more than happy to keep our Pakistani brothers up to date, my office is opened, the Embassy is opened, any Pakistani who is willing or wishing to know more and more about Palestine. I do hope that Pakistanis will be able, in the near future, to go and visit Palestine and to pray in Qibla Awal, in Masjid Al-Aqsa and we will be more than happy to host our Pakistani brothers as they hosted us during the last six decades.