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A life devoted to Peace among People and,
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Newspaper Pagina/12
Buenos Aires, Monday August 24th of 1998


Arafat already possesses his own house (view)

By Raul Kollman

The diplomatic headquarter will be inaugurated with the visit of Yasser Arafat in November. It is a petit hotel in Riobamba y Santa Fe. The measure is considered a step towards a possible total acknowledgement in May.

In November, the event will have a double importance. The representation of Palestinians in Argentina will inaugurate its first and beautiful diplomatic headquarter in a small palace which belonged to Obras Sanitarias. Now the property was given to Palestinians by the Argentine government. The second event will be surely more important: the leader of the Palestine National Authority (PNA), Yasser Arafat, who obviously will be the protagonist at the inauguration, will arrive at the country for the first time.

The works at the house in Riobamba 981 are highly advanced. At the beginning of the century, this property was the residency of Obras Sanitarias’ manager. Today everything is being altered for the events in November. On the first floor, after the long stairs, there is a kind of courtyard made of glass with a delicate statue in honour to Intifada, the Palestinian revolt headed by children who threw stones at the Israeli troops.

“Arafat was invited by President Carlos Menem and by Buenos Aires City Mayor, Fernando de la Rua, also –explains suhail Akel, Palestinian diplomatic representative in Argentina-. We have an excellent bilateral relation and we were given the diplomatic status”.

Actually, there is not an Embassy in Buenos Aires until now because Argentine has not recognised Palestine as an independent country. The relation is established in the immediately previous step, the one of diplomatic representation. For Palestinians, Akel has rank of Ambassador; while for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Akel is diplomatic representative of the PNA. The only Latin American country which fully recognises the Palestine State is Cuba, where there has been an Ambassador for 20 years.

Maybe, May 4th of 1999 will be central, at the international level, to debate about the recognition or not of a Palestinian state. On that day, Oslo accords –signed by Israel and Palestine- expire and it is foreseen that Yasser Arafat declares Palestine an independent state. Once this step is taken, Argentina will have to make a decision.

Beyond the technicalities of foreign relations, Argentine has made clear gestures towards Palestine. President Menem sent to Gaza, headquarters of Arafat’ s government, not only humanitarian help but also he officially sent a coach –Ricardo Carugatti- who assumed the conduction of the Palestinian football team. The FIFA has recently accepted Palestine. Therefore, the coach will prepare the team for the next world championship.

Menem and De la Rua’ s interest in Arafat’ s visit is connected with the support towards the peace process in Middle East. “Our President accepted the invitation and his visit depends on the evolution of the situation in the zone during the next months. He wants to come and to be present at the inauguration of the diplomatic representation”, Akel expresses. “Besides, it would be a gesture towards a country has suffered the attacks carried out by fanatic and crazy minds. The Argentine Arabs and Jews have had an excellent relation. The attack caused great suffering in the Jewish community and also in the Arab one, accused and twisted. However, they did not succeed in breaking the relation of both communities. We have been categorical: we are against attacks, violence or terror. We hope that Justice give satisfaction to the victims’ families”.