Palestinian Flag Flies Officially for First Time in Washington
PLO Ambassador to U.S. Hails Flag Raising as Step Towards Statehood
WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2011— -- The Palestinian flag was flown for the first time outside PLO diplomatic offices in Washington today, in a symbolic step that officials said shows momentum towards creation of an independent Palestinian state.
Ambassador Maen Areikat unfurled the red, green, white and black banner from a balcony above the office entrance to a round of applause from supporters. He hailed the moment as historic.
"It's about time that this flag that symbolizes the struggle of the Palestinian people for self-determination and statehood to be raised in the U.S.," Areikat said.
"We hope that this will help international efforts to provide recognition of the Palestinian state and we hope that, as President Obama said at the U.N. General Assembly last year, by the next General Assembly session this year in September, Palestine will be a full member of the U.N."
Palestinian leaders have been intensely lobbying members of the U.N. for official recognition this year despite U.S. opposition and the threat of a veto. The U.S. has said Palestinian statehood should come as part of a peace deal with Israel.
Still, Areikat praised the Obama administration for a small, if symbolic, gesture that reflects improved diplomatic relations and a U.S. commitment to help promote the goal of a Palestinian state.
"It means the administration is serious," he said of the U.S. permission to fly the flag. "What we are urging them now is to translate their support for a Palestinian state into concrete action."
The Palestinian diplomatic mission has been under a number of restrictions since the U.S. government stopped classifying the PLO as a terrorist group after the Oslo Accords of 1993. It does not have full diplomatic status as an independent state.