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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 October 2018

Former PLO envoy to US becomes top Palestinian diplomat in Britain

Husam Zomlot was recalled from Washington after Trump moved embassy to Jerusalem

Husam Zomlot, the former Palestinian envoy to Washington, is now its diplomat in Britain. AP
Husam Zomlot, the former Palestinian envoy to Washington, is now its diplomat in Britain. AP

Husam Zomlot, the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s former top diplomat in Washington, recalled earlier this year after the United States relocated its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, is now head of the Palestinian mission in Britain.

The administration of US President Donald Trump last month ordered the closure of the PLO office in Washington after officials in Ramallah continued to refuse to engage publicly with their American counterparts.

“Today I took over as Palestine’s ambassador in Britain. My first meeting was with the Arab League Ambassador in London, Ibrahim Mahi Al Din, a friend of Palestine,” Mr Zomlot posted on his Facebook page on Monday.

He replaces Manuel Hassassian, who was head of the Palestinian mission in London for more than a decade.

Mr Zomlot’s role will entail building contacts among British politicians as the Palestinians continue to push for European states to recognise Palestine.The European position is predominantly in favour of a two-state solution, with a sovereign Palestinian state side-by-side with an Israeli state.

"You cannot claim to believe in the two-state solution if you don't recognise the two states," he told Sky News.

But the Palestinians view the moves of the Trump administration to be in favour of Israel and to end hopes of an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders.

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Mr Trump has continued to support Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his hard-right government and has failed to condemn continued Israeli settlement construction, which is deemed illegal by the majority of the international community.

Mr Zomlot said the UK should take on the role of lead mediator between the Palestinians and the Israelis for the benefit of both the US and Britain.

"Best friends are there to fill the vacuum, if the vacuum is going to be dangerous for your old friend which is America. Fill it," Mr Zomlot told Sky News on Tuesday. "This is a moment of leadership."

"I firmly believe that Britain can help at this point in time avoid the chaos that the Trump administration is creating."

More than 100 countries recognise the State of Palestine but major world powers such as Britain and the US have yet to do so.

Britain, however, opposed Mr Trump’s decision to move Washington’s representation in Israel to the contested city.

Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of any future state and argue that Mr Trump’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital deals a major blow to their hopes of sharing the city.