Secretary General of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation and Chief Negotiator, Dr. Saeb Erekat, told TRT World that instead of visiting Israel, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas should come to Palestine to discuss its future.
TRT WORLD: The German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, is visiting Israel and wants to act as a mediator. However, a visit to Ramallah is not planned. How credible is the German initiative from a Palestinian perspective?
SAEB EREKAT: Germany is an important member of the international community and next month will assume the chairmanship of the council of the European Union as well as of the UN Security Council. They are also an active advocate for multilateralism and a rules-based world order, a principle that entered into conflict when they formally called upon the International Criminal Court not to conduct an investigation on Israeli crimes being committed in Palestine. We are in an ongoing dialogue with Germany at this very important moment where if Israel continues being treated as a state above the law, all prospects of peace in the Middle East are going to disappear.
Palestinian Prime Minister, Mohammed Shtayyeh, stated that the German visit to Ramallah was prevented by Israel. How do you assess such steps against the background of a two-state solution?
SE: As far as I know there are dozens of German diplomats going and coming into Ramallah. Does anyone really believe what Israel told the German foreign minister? I personally think that this sets a negative precedent: If you are coming to talk about the future of Palestine, then you come to Palestine. If you are trying to mediate, a basic principle is to be with all sides and to make them all feel equally important. Minister Maas, despite his known pro-Israeli sympathies, has enough information to realize that it is Israel that is destroying the prospects of peace and threatening a rules-based world order, not Palestine that has a very clear vision of peace based on international law.
On 1 July, Germany will take over the EU Council Presidency. What role does this change in circumstances, and the special German-Israeli past, play given the possibility of European sanctions in the event of the Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories?
SE: Annexation is a crime, just as ongoing Israeli colonial-settlements are a crime, are a violation of international law and Israel should be held accountable. If there are any other considerations preventing this from taking place, those avoiding to take action should come out with a clear statement saying that international law applies to everyone but Israel. As Germany hasn't said so, we expect Germany to do what is needed, including holding Israel accountable in order to move towards a just and lasting peace.
Should Israel push through the annexation, how could Palestinians react diplomatically to the development? What is your assessment of the possibility of a new ‘intifada’?
SE: We are working with the international community, including Germany, to prevent annexation. If annexation still takes place, we will act accordingly.