Britain has so far refused to grant a diplomatic visa to the newly appointed Palestinian Authority representative to the United Kingdom, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday.
In an interview with the Pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi, Abbas admitted the UK had thus far held off on granting Maen Areikat, the former Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) representative in Washington, the same status as his predecessor in London Manuel Hassassian, in what appears to be a sign of ambivalence over Areikat’s diplomatic status.
“We asked the British government to treat the new envoy as it had treated the previous ambassador. It should not change its treatment as that would mean bad will and misconduct from Britain, and we will have a position and reaction to that,” Abbas said, after being asked if it was true that Areikat had not been given the sought-after documentation.
When asked if he knew the British were attempting to reduce the diplomatic standing of the PA’s envoy to London, Abbas responded: “The British are trying to scale back and are trying to put restrictions and obstacles. But we told them that we want to be treated like before, to deal with the new ambassador just like the former ambassador.”
The Palestinian office in London was upgraded into a diplomatic mission in 2011.
“The consultations are not over yet. I do not think it is a big problem,” Abbas added.
However, when asked if the PA would act in kind against Britain, Abbas responded: “All possible options will be open to us.”
Abbas did not explain why the British were withholding a diplomatic visa for Areikat.
The British consulate in Jerusalem did not respond to an inquiry on the matter.
The diplomatic dust-up comes as Palestinians have threatened legal action against the British government if it does not retract its intention to celebrate the centennial of the Balfour Declaration.
The Balfour Declaration, a document signed on November 2, 1917, by foreign secretary Arthur James Balfour, announced his government’s intention to facilitate “a national home for the Jewish people” in the Land of Israel.
Abbas said during the interview with Al Quds al Arabi that the PA was continuing with its plans to sue over the declaration.
Palestinian officials have long branded the Balfour Declaration a “crime,” and last July officials in Ramallah announced plans to sue the British government over the document, viewed in Israel as an important step toward the country’s creation.
Abbas has spoken out against the centennial celebration of the document at nearly all of his recent major international speeches, including most recently at the Arab Summit in Jordan last Wednesday.
He has also called on the UK to apologize for the declaration and do so by recognizing the state of Palestine.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during an official visit to the UK in February that an invitation he received from British Prime Minister Theresa May to attend November’s centenary celebrations of the Balfour Declaration in London “speaks volumes” about Jerusalem’s relationship with Downing Street.
“While the Palestinians want to sue Britain for the Balfour Declaration, the British prime minister is inviting the Israeli prime minister to an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the declaration. That speaks volumes,” Netanyahu said.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.