CARACAS (JTA) — The Palestinian Authority and Venezuela established official diplomatic relations.
P.A. Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki met with Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro Monday to establish the bilateral relations and open a Palestinian representative office in the nation’s capital, according to the Venezuela Ministry of Information.
“Today we’ve signed an agreement establishing diplomatic relations,” said Al-Malki. “Venezuela has shown their solidarity.”
Venezuela severed all ties with Israel in early January to protest Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, dubbing it a “massacre.” Israel responded by kicking out all of Venezuela’s representatives in both Tel Aviv and to the Palestinian Authority.
President Hugo Chavez subsequently said during a summit with Arab nations that his government had no plans to reestablish ties with the “genocidal” state.
Historically, Venezuela has adopted a more balanced stance in its relations with the Middle East, favoring neither Israel nor its Arab neighbors. Chavez has dramatically tipped the scale during his decade in power, declaring Iran one of its best friends and uprooting entirely the Israeli diplomatic mission.
Members of the Jewish community here say public outbursts of anti-Semitism, once rare in Venezuela, have become more common as Chavez has adopted a vehemently critical tone against Israel’s military operations, beginning with its war with Hezbollah in 2006.
President Chavez’s strident criticism of Israel has made him the most popular leader in the Arab world, said Al-Malki.
“He is the most popular leader in the Arab world due to his courage, his valor, his support for justice, for being in favor of a just cause such as that of Palestine,” he said.
News reports have said the eventual goal is to open a Palestinian embassy with full diplomatic privileges in Caracas.
The Palestinian Authority also has representative offices in Chile, Colombia, Argentina and Brazil.
About 1,000 Palestinians live in Venezuela, according to the Bolivarian News Agency.