Dutch Foreign Minister Meets with Palestinians at Orient House

Despite strong objections from Israeli officials, Dutch Foreign Minister Hans Van Mierlo met this week with Palestinian officials in eastern Jerusalem.

Mierlo’s talks Wednesday at Orient House, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s de facto headquarters in eastern Jerusalem, disrupted what was otherwise described as an amicable and productive visit to Israel by a delegation led by Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok.

Internal Security Minister Moshe Shahal initially called the visit to Orient House a “grave matter,” but later backed off from the issue, saying that it was not very significant.

Israel opposes visits by foreign officials to Orient House on the grounds that they undermine Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem.

Israeli-Palestinian negotiations regarding Jerusalem and other so-called “final status” issues are scheduled to begin in May.

Israel traditionally does not comment on visits to Orient House by foreign officials, unless they involve a foreign minister or higher-level official.

The European Community has decided as matter of policy that its foreign ministers will continue to visit Orient House.

During the Dutch delegation’s visit, Kok offered to help Israel set up artificial islands along its coastline as a possible answer to the country’s shortage of land.

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