palestine - Natasha Mozgovaya - January 18 2011
Palestinian flag hangs from the Palestinian mission to the U.S.A. in Washington, D.C., January 18, 2011. Photo by Natasha Mozgovaya
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Natasha Mozgovaya
The Palestinian flag hangs for the first time outside the Washington diplomatic mission, January 18, 2011. Photo by Natasha Mozgovaya

In a symbolic gesture, the Palestinians raised their flag over their diplomatic mission in Washington for the first time on Tuesday, as they continue in their quest for recognition by the international community.

At a brief ceremony, the Palestinians' chief envoy to the United States, Maen Rashid Areikat, hoisted the red, green, white and black banner outside the PLO General Delegation office.

"This is a historic day," Areikat said, adding that it brought him "much pride" to raise his flag. "I will remember this moment for the rest of my life."

The flag raising comes amidst the backdrop of another country recognizing Palestinian independence. Earlier on Tuesday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow had recognized Palestinian independence in 1988 and they would continue to do so today.

The United States has long said it will not recognize a Palestinian state without a deal, but the Palestinians are still seeking broader support to bring the matter to the United Nations in September.

Areikat praised the U.S. relationship with the Palestinians, despite their refusal to recognize an independent Palestinian state, and expressed hope that the flag raising would help in the Palestinian quest to win support for independence with or without a peace deal with Israel.

"The Palestinians are working with the U.S. government to move forward with the peace process," Areikat said.

The U.S. State Department responded to the flag raising on Tuesday, saying that the Palestinians are allowed to fly their flag at their Washington office.

"Last year, at the request of the PLO representative in Washington, the Department of State modified conditions under which the PLO is allowed to operate its office in Washington. The office is now called the “General Delegation of the PLO” and is allowed to fly the Palestinian flag," a State Department official said.