The new head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s mission in United Kingdom said that the Palestinians believe London can undertake “a leading role” in efforts to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.
Husam Zomlot — who took over as the PLO’s top envoy in London on Monday, after the Trump Administration shuttered the PLO’s DC mission he headed — made the comments Tuesday at an event on the sidelines of the annual gathering of the Conservative Party, the UK’s ruling party, in Birmingham.
His speech was attended by UK Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt, British lawmakers, Arab ambassadors and others.
“We firmly believe that the UK can play a leading role in achieving that desired peace in the Middle East,” Zomlot said.
“The UK already has the vision–the vision of a two-state solution on the 1967 borders. The UK has already invested in that vision for many, many decades.”
The UK has long supported a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The UK could actually lead the rest of the world… to peace and justice.”
Zomlot also praised the UK for the positions it took after US President Donald Trump’s recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and initiated the relocation of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv .
“We also saw your leadership in the last few months by standing with your vision and the vision of the international community,” he said. “By affirming the two-state solution in the face of all the adversity. By standing firm about the issue of Jerusalem. That is the UK. And refusing the moving of the embassy.”
After Trump’s announced his new policies on Jerusalem in December, UK Prime Minister Theresa May said her country “disagrees” with recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving its embassy there before the conclusion of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
Zomlot also lauded Britain for increasing its aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the UN body tasked with aiding Palestinian refugees.
“We also saw your principled position about UNRWA and doubling your aid immediately. That shows leadership, that shows commitment,” he said
UNRWA has been facing a major funding shortfall in large part because the Trump administration has given it far less money than previous American administrations. Since the start of 2018, the US government has only sent $60 million to the agency; in 2017, the US gave $364 million. Last month, the US administration announced it would stop funding the UN body altogether, calling it “irredeemably flawed.
In July, UK Minister of State for the Middle East and International Development Alistair Burt said the British government would double its aid for economic development projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over a five year period. Burt was also present for Zomlot’s address on Tuesday.
Zomlot called on Britain to lead the international community to support the Palestinians.
“This is a moment that we need more leadership,” he said, stressing that it was important to respect international order. “This is all what will keep us in a system that will guarantee our relationship, our security, our prosperity.”
Zomlot said he believed that there was “sufficient international will” and “international resolutions” to do so.
“We promise you,” he said, “We the Palestinians will continue our march towards peace and justice. But we seek from you to join us, to partner with us in that very, very desirable outcome.”
Zomlot arrived in London last week, less than a month after the Trump administration ordered the PLO representative office in Washington closed.
He replaced Manuel Hassassian, who served as the head of the PLO mission in London for more than 10 years.
Zomlot has previously spent considerable time in London, earning a masters at the London School of Economics and a doctorate at the University of London, and serving briefly as charge d’affaires at the PLO mission in the UK.
He also has ties with a number of politicians in London whom he met as a graduate student there.