The United States State Department has upgraded the Palestinian Liberation Organization's mission in Washington, the PLO's U.S. representative said on Thursday.

The upgrade, which will give the PLO Mission to the U.S. the status of 'Delegation General', became effective beginning July 20, 2010.

Ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat, the PLO's representative to the United States, said that the decision was preceded by several consultations made over the past year between the PLO Mission and the Obama administration.

Although not fully fledged diplomatic recognition, the upgrade raises the status of Palestinian representation in the U.S. to the same level as PLO representation in many European countries, as well as Canada.

In addition to the name change, the PLO office will now be able to fly the Palestinian flag - although there was some doubt that the organization would gain permission to hoist the Palestinian colors from its headquarters, which it shares with other tenants.

Areikat said he hoped the upgrade was "a sign of America’s determination to play an active role in bringing about an end to Israel’s 43-year-old military occupation of Palestinian lands and the creation of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital".