KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves’ recent visit to Palestine is not an indication of a refusal to have relations with Israel he told journalists here on Wednesday.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is among several Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nations that recognise the Palestinian state.
And Gonsalves, speaking at a media conference on his return from a 15-day trip that took him to Bethlehem, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, said that relations between Kingstown and Jerusalem are still important.
“We have diplomatic relations with Israel,” Gonsalves said as he announced that Camillo Gonsalves, this country’s ambassador to the United Nation, has been invited by his Israeli colleague to visit that country.
“Now, one may say that it has something to do with the visit that I have made to Palestine. But we are not visiting Palestine and refusing to have relations with Israel. I want to make that plain …” Gonsalves said, adding that Kingstown addresses its foreign relations in a “principled and open” manner.
In justifying his visit to Palestine, Gonsalves said that Palestine has been around since the days of the Bible and occupy a swat of territory where the Palestinians, Arabs, and Jews have lived for thousands of years.
He noted the U.N. resolution last year, which says that both Palestine and Israel must have their separate states.
The boundaries of the two countries are to be decided but the U.N. says that both states must be secure and live in peace.
Despite both states being the central conflict in the Middle East, all Arab nations support Palestinian independence, Gonsalves said.
He said this position is also accepted by the United States although there are still questions about territory.
Gonsalves further said that Israel must also have safe and secure borders.
Kingstown, Gonsalves, said came to its position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after taking several factors into consideration.
“Our government looks at the issues in a number of interconnected ways including our understanding of the history and circumstance and the theology,” he said.
“St. Vincent and the Grenadines, … when we hold a position of principle, we articulate it, we are not afraid to state it because we do not arrive at these positions lightly,” he further stated.
“And that is why our country and I, that we were honoured with an invitation by President Mahmoud Abbas,” Gonsalves said.
He added that besides him, only the Jordanian Foreign Minister and Vice-President of Hungary were invited by Abbas to be at the midnight-mass last Christmas Eve.
“I think this is of some importance and recognition to our country.”
Gonsalves further spoke of this country’s relations with Arab states including Libya and Iran, which have contributed to the international airport under construction at Argyle.
Qatar, he noted, has contributed to the Hurricane Tomas relief efforts and its emir has promised to visit SVG.
“We are developing a lot of good relations with Arab countries,” Gonsalves said, noting that relations with Kuwait began under the New Democratic Party administration of Sir James Mitchell.
“The Kuwaiti government and the Qatari government, for example, were very pleased with our principled position in relation to Palestine. Both the Emir told me that at the U.N. and so, too, the Prime Minister of Kuwait,” he said.
“… Our visit to Palestine addresses the issue in relations to Palestine itself but is also an interconnected issue with the building of relations with other Arab states — important relations,” Gonsalves further stated.