Islamic Countries Threaten Trade Sanctions Against Australia Over E. J'lem Policy

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Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, recipient of sharp letter from Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.Credit: AP

Diplomats from Islamic countries have warned the Australian government  of possible trade sanctions if it does not retract its recent decision to refer to East Jerusalem as "disputed territory," rather than the internationally accepted "occupied territory."

The Australian Broadcasting Company reported that after a meeting Wednesday between delegates from 18 Islamic countries and senior Australian Department of Foreign Affairs officials, Izzat Abdulhadi, head of the General Delegation of Palestine to Australia, said: "There are a lot of exports of meat to the Arab world and now also we're talking about the wheat."

Such a move would undermine Australian efforts to expand access for local produce in the Middle East, ABC reported.

"I think ... the interest of Australia is to work with the Arab world," Abdulhadi said.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said diplomats from both sides have agreed to keep an "open dialogue" on the issue.

Last week the Palestinian Authority condemned Australia's policy shift and warned that it was weighing its response.

In a letter sent to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, which was obtained by Haaretz, Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinians view this decision "in the gravest terms," and accused Australia of not recognizing the illegality of Israel's settlements policy.

A statement released by Australia's attorney general revealed that the country will no longer refer to East Jerusalem as an occupied territory, a dramatic shift in Australian policy on Israel since 1967.

''The description of East Jerusalem as 'Occupied East Jerusalem' is a term freighted with pejorative implications, which is neither appropriate nor useful,'' the statement said, adding that Australia must not use such "judgmental language."

In his letter, Erekat said the term "occupation" is not judgmental, but a recognition of the "legal fact" that Israel occupies the Palestinian territories, as affirmed by a UN resolution.

Erekat said Australia's refusal to use the term "occupation" with regards to East Jerusalem is the latest in a pattern of behavior which shows Australia "has no interest in complying with its duty under international law not to recognize the illegal Israeli settlement regime in Palestinian territory."

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