A meeting in Ramallah between Palestinian leaders and ministers representing states of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) scheduled for Sunday, was cancelled, as Israel denied entry to some of the foreign diplomats that were set to participate.
The meeting, which included an opening ceremony and speech from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and a tour near the settlement of Beit El, was scheduled to take place on Sunday afternoon and through the evening.
The foreign diplomats had planned to arrive from Amman by crossing the Allenby Bridge, with some arriving by helicopter.
The twelve ministers that were supposed to participate in the meeting included Egypts new Foreign Minister Mohammed Amr, who also set to take part in a press party along with PA foreign Minsiter Riyad al-Malki. Apparently, as four of the foreign dignitaries were denied entry, the remaining eight, including foreign ministers from South Africa and Colombia, decided to cancel the meeting.
The meeting was announced on Saturday by Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki, who said that the purpose of the session was to introduce NAM members to the Palestinian situation and to ask for their support, should they ask to become a non-member state in the United Nations General Assembly
"Israels denial of entry to the foreign ministers who were coming to participate in the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Ramallah is a blatant and crude exercise of power and a form of political siege."
"Israels treatment of Palestine as an internal issue and its attempts to isolate the Palestinian people from the rest of the world further emphasize why we need to achieve state status at the United Nations as a step towards our exercise of self-determination and freedom, Ashrawi added.
The Non-Aligned Movement is a diplomatic bloc founded during the Cold War to advocate the causes of the developing world.
Israel was unapologetic about its decision. "We have cleared entry for representatives of countries which have diplomatic relations with Israel and we have not cleared those which do not," said foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.
Israel controls access to the West Bank, which can be reached via the main checkpoint outside Jerusalem on the road coming up from Ben Gurion International Airport, or at the Allenby Bridge over the Jordan River, on the road from Amman.
The United Nations criticized the Israeli action, saying it undermined the interim peace agreements which entitled Palestinians to autonomy in a small part of the West Bank, called Area A.
"Denying the Palestinian Authority the ability to engage with members of the international community in Area A is yet another step that contradicts the credibility of the Oslo arrangements which affirm the Palestinian right of self-government," Robert Serry, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said in a statement.
The decision to exclude the envoys came a day after the Palestinian Authority announced it would resume its bid for statehood recognition at the United Nations, a campaign strongly opposed by Israel and the United States.
The planned drive for non-member observer status, akin to the Vatican's, would be an indirect recognition of their claims on statehood in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. It would allow them to join a number of UN agencies, and the International Criminal Court.
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