Palestine Recalls Ambassador To Pak Over Appearance With Hafiz Saeed

(The Hindu) In an affirmation of Palestine’s ties with India and its support for “India’s fight against terror,” Palestinian Ambassador to India Adnan Abu Al Haija informed the government on Saturday that the Palestinian National Authority had decided to recall its Ambassador to Pakistan Walid Abu Ali for sharing dais with Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief and 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed.

“What he did was not acceptable to my government. Palestine has very close ties with India and has always supported India’s fight against terror. As a result [Ambassador Ali] has been recalled to Ramallah by the government,” Ambassador Al Haija said in exclusive comments to The Hindu.

India also conveyed its strong protest on the matter to Mr. Al Haija, who met with Secretary, Economic Relations, Vijay Gokhale, at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Saturday.

“Government of India has strongly conveyed to the Palestinian side that the Palestinian Ambassador in Pakistan’s association with terrorist Hafiz Saeed, who is proscribed by the United Nations, at an event in Rawalpindi on 29.12.2017, is unacceptable,” a statement issued by the MEA after the meeting said, adding that India had taken up the matter in both New Delhi and Ramallah, and had “taken note” of the Palestinian diplomat’s assurances.

‘Deep regrets’

“The Palestinian side has conveyed deep regrets over the incident and assured the Government of India that they are taking serious cognizance of their Ambassador’s presence at this event. They have said they will deal with this matter appropriately. It was also conveyed that Palestine highly values its relationship with India and stands with us in the war against terrorism, and will not engage with those who commit acts of terror against India,” the government said.

On Friday, the Palestinian Ambassador to Pakistan attended a rally by Difa-e-Pakistan, a radical Islamist front led by Hafiz Saeed, at Rawalpindi’s Liaqat Bagh, and was photographed with Saeed. The photographs had been received with condemnation in New Delhi, and even civil society groups had issued letters criticising the Ambassador’s action.

In a stern statement on Friday night, the MEA said it would take up the matter “strongly” and had called in Ambassador Al Haija to deliver the message.

India’s vote in U.N.

The action of the Palestinian Ambassador to Pakistan was considered particularly insulting as it came close on the heels of India’s vote at the UNGA in support of the two-state solution and criticising the United States and Israel for supporting a shift in Jerusalem’s status.

Palestine had welcomed India’s vote and said it was “proud of India and its friendship.” Israeli government sources had told The Hindu that they had protested with New Delhi on the vote, but through the “right diplomatic channels”, i.e. silently.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit Palestine in early 2018, and the decision of the Palestinian diplomat to support one of India’s most wanted terrorists could have cast a shadow on the plans for the visit.

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