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Palestine Recognized

February 16, 2017

Costa Rica recognized the “Palestinian state” this week, delving into a thorny debate about the status of Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza.

The United Nations and the United States do not recognize Palestinian statehood,  but Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry took that step Tuesday.

The Foreign Ministry hopes to end its alienation from the Arab world and to give Israel and the Palestinians equal standing as Costa Rica tackles Middle East issues from its new perch on the U.N. Security Council, said Christian Guillermet, the ministry’s policy director.

“It’s a way of backing the Palestinian authorities and the peace process,” he said.

The new ties were formally established Tuesday in New York City between Jorge Urbina and Riyad Mansour, who represent Costa Rica and Palestine, respectively, at the United Nations.

The two countries will soon appoint ambassadors, although Costa Rica cannot afford to send its ambassador to Palestine, Guillermet said.

The Palestinian Authority has diplomatic representation in about 100 countries, mostly in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, according to its U.N. mission office.

The U.S. position is that Palestine is not yet a state because the Palestinian Authority must negotiate with Israel over the terms of statehood, said Thomas Lippman, a scholar at the Middle East Institute think-tank in Washington, D.C.

“Costa Rica puts itself in a position where it kind of ticks-off the Israelis and the Americans,” he said. “It could have some political negativity.”

Israeli Ambassador to Costa Rica Ehud Etam expressed surprise by the news and felt misled by Foreign Ministry officials about their plans, said embassy spokeswoman Dinorah Castillo. She declined to comment on how Costa Rica’s move could affect Israel-Costa Rica relations.

President Oscar Arias has reestablished ties with eight Arab nations, including Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Yemen and Lebanon.

Guillermet said the new Palestinian ties will bring trade and investment, as well as support for Costa Rica’s initiatives in the Security Council.

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