PLO Diplomatic Mission in Washington Flies Palestinian Flag for First Time

The office has had permission from the State Department since last August, when the mission was upgraded from a representative office to a general delegation.

WASHINGTON - The PLO diplomatic mission here raised the Palestinian flag over its building for the first time yesterday, as the Palestinians' chief envoy to the United States, Maen Areikat, said he hopes to see Palestine recognized in the United Nations by September.

The Palestine Liberation Organization office has had permission from the State Department to fly the flag since last August, when the mission was upgraded from a representative office to a general delegation, but had been awaiting permission from the building's owner before displaying it, he said.

"I will cherish this moment for as long as I live, but I'd like to see some follow-up to this step by the U.S. administration," said Areikat.

"We said it makes no sense that the Palestinian flag is raised in Andrews Air Force Base every time [Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas comes here, and saluted by the guard of honor - and not to have our flag raised on our building," he said. "They accepted our argument. But that also means that this administration is serious, that it really wants to see the struggle of the Palestinian people concluded with the Palestinian state. We are urging them to translate this support into complete action. The president who said he hopes to see the Palestinian state as a full member of the UN - I hope this goal will be realized by September 2011."

The United States opposes any unilateral Palestinian move to establish statehood, but several other nations, notably in Latin America, have recently recognized Palestine, and the Palestinians are seeking broader support to bring statehood before the United Nations in September.

"Now people are recognizing the 1967 borders, something that Israel has so far failed to acknowledge and recognize," Areikat said. "They are not only recognizing the idea of Palestinian state, but the physical borders, and that's why this wave of recognition is different from the previous one. It specifically mentions the future borders of the Palestinian state."

Even Israel has softened its stance on the Palestinian flag, Areikat noted.

"I remember the days when raising the Palestinian flag under the Israeli occupation was a crime," he said. "People were sent to jail for six months. It took us a long struggle to make Israelis recognize the flag. It is raised now wherever there are official Israeli-Palestinian meetings."


The Associated Press contributed to this report.