Australia’s foreign minister has reaffirmed that Australia would not be recognizing a “State of Palestine,” despite a petition calling for such recognition signed by 80 members of Parliament from the ruling Australian Labor Party.
Foreign Minister Gareth Evans made his comment Thursday, when he said Australia remains “a strong supporter of the Middle East peace process.”
Evans said the declaration of principles on self-rule signed Sept. 13 in Washington between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization “made clear that negotiations on the permanent status of the occupied territories would commence no later than the beginning of the third year of the interim period of Palestinian self-government.”
He said “it would be quite premature to anticipate the outcome at this stage.”
Members of Parliament told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the petition had been promoted and circulated since April by the PLO representative in Australia, Ali Kazak.
Kazak stepped up the campaign for Australian support for recognizing the “State of Palestine” after the accord was signed.
The petitioners wrote that the measure would be “aiding the peace process,” a claim firmly rejected by the foreign minister, Israel’s ambassador to Australia and Jewish organizations here.
Israel’s ambassador to Australia, Yehuda Avner, wrote to the 36 federal and 45 state legislators, expressing “surprise, indeed, bewilderment” at the petition.
He particularly noted surprise that it had come “at this most delicate juncture, at the very hour when representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel are intensely engaged in hammering out the final details of the first phase of their peace accord.”
He added that he feared the petition “will only serve to encourage those extremist elements who seek to destroy the Israel-PLO accord and, through violence, call for the immediate creation of a Palestinian state.”
Colin Rubenstein, editorial chairman of Australia/Israel Publications, said the call to recognize the “State of Palestine” violates “elementary rules of diplomacy, distorts the situation and, above all, is damaging to the current peace process.”
He said the petitioners’ demands reflect “a campaign contrary to the spirit of the accord and are disruptive and damaging.”
The JTA Daily News Bulletin will not be published Monday, Dec. 27. There will also be no Daily News Bulletin dated Monday, Jan. 3.
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