Abbas Threatens Britain in Diplomatic Visa Flap

Abbas, Britain, Diplomatic Visa
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends the 28th Ordinary Summit of the Arab League at the Dead Sea, Jordan, on March 29. (REUTERS/Mohammad Hamed)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas threatened an unspecified retaliation if Britain refuses to grant a diplomatic visa to his new ambassador to London.

Abbas told the Pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi on Monday that Britain has been delaying confirmation of Maen Areikat as the PA’s accredited envoy. He insists that the former Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) representative in Washington should have the same status as his predecessor in London Manuel Hassassian.

“We asked the British government to treat the new envoy as it had treated the previous ambassador. It should not change its treatment as that would mean bad will and misconduct from Britain, and we will have a position and reaction to that,” Abbas said.

When asked what lay behind the British cold shoulder, Abbas responded, “The British are trying to scale back [their relationship with the PA] and are trying to put restrictions and obstacles.”

“The consultations are not over yet. I do not think it is a big problem,” Abbas added.

Abbas gave no explanation for why Britain would be reluctant to grant a diplomatic visa to Areikat, and British officials were making no comment.

However, the current tension could be related to a Palestinian demand that the U.K. apologize for the Balfour Declaration, a demand made at the 27th Arab League Summit in Mauritania last year.

“Britain should…apologize to the Palestinian people for this historic injustice done against them, and also recognize the state of Palestine,” Abbas also told the 28th Arab League Summit in Jordan last week.

The British have not apologized.

In addition, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said during an official visit to London in February that he received an invitation from British Prime Minister Theresa May to attend next November’s centenary celebrations of the Balfour Declaration in London.

“While the Palestinians want to sue Britain for the Balfour Declaration, the British prime minister is inviting the Israeli prime minister to an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the declaration. That speaks volumes,” Netanyahu said.