Palestinians consider opening embassy in Vilnius, ask for state recognition
The Palestinians are considering opening their embassy in Vilnius later this year, making it a bridge for Arab countries to the Baltic states, Foreign Minister Riad al Malki says.
In his words, the issue will be discussed with Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis during his visit to Palestine in June.
"We were contemplating ourselves in opening an embassy in the Baltic states. We were thinking which country of the three that we should open the Palestinian embassy in. Of course, Lithuania as the biggest country and the country that is leading within the Baltics is the candidate for that," the Palestinian minister said.
"So maybe certain persuasion from your prime minister will convince us to take that decision, he added.
According to al Malki, the embassy could be opened over the next six months.
"We have found that no Arab country has any representation in the Baltic states and we feel that we would like to be the bridge that will connect the Baltic states and the Arab countries and to persuade many other Arab countries to open embassies," the Palestinian foreign minister said.
Lithuania has not recognized the State of Palestine yet. Therefore, the Palestinian representation would officially be of a lower rank than an embassy and would probably be a Palestinian office for relations with Lithuania.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Skvernelis will pay a visit to Palestine on June 18–20. He is scheduled to meet with the Palestinian prime minister in Bethlehem after meeting with the Israeli president, prime minister and parliament speaker in Jerusalem.
Hope for statehood recognition
According to al Malki, ways to step up tourism and Palestinian students' education at Lithuanian universities will be discussed during the Lithuanian prime minister's visit.
Skvernelis will also be asked for Lithuania to recognize the State of Palestine. Out of EU members, Sweden recognized Palestine in 2014. Eight states did that before joining the European Union. All in all, 139 countries have recognized Palestine.
Lithuania, as the United States and the majority of European countries, say the decision to recognize the State of Palestine must be made during the Palestinians' direct talks with Israel.
The Palestinians say, however, the incumbent Israeli government is in principle against the foundation of the State of Palestine, and the building of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land makes statehood even more difficult.
"The recognition of Palestine will persuade Israel to go back to the negotiating table and to sit and negotiate with the Palestinians based on the two-state solution," al Malki said.
"So why are you conditioning your sovereign decision to recognize state of Palestine to the Israeli decision to negotiate and reach peace agreement when you know in advance that Israel will never sit and negotiate seriously with us? We have tried it for the last 25 years. Now we are much worse," the Palestinian foreign minister said.
"Countries like Lithuania and others should come forward and recognize the state of Palestine. It will help very much and it will change this status quo that has existed for the last 50 years. You will alter that reality and create certain impetus in order for Israel to realize that they cannot count on this silent action of the international community," he said.
Al Malki also hopes France will recognize Palestine over the next couple of months and another five or six countries will follow shortly.