Charles: Does Government fear US over Palestine?

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Naparima MP Rodney Charles – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

NAPARIMA MP Rodney Charles has asked if the Government was afraid to upset the US by recognising Palestine as a state especially given the TT/Venezuela Dragon gas deal.

In a statement on Wednesday, Charles said the Prime Minister must “walk the talk” on Palestinian UN membership, as PM Dr Eric Williams had done decisively in 1972 in opposing the US embargo of Cuba.

The statement said, “MP Charles is calling on Rowley, to take the moral high ground, be on the right side of history, support our Islamic citizens and follow the majority of Caricom by recognising Palestine.

“This comes in the wake of Jamaica recognising Palestine yesterday (Tuesday) as well as Barbados announcing plans to officially do so. Guyana was the sixth country in Latin America to recognise the state.”

When will TT join the 141 countries which recognise Palestine as an independent state, Charles asked.

He said decades ago TT always was in the forefront of regional issues of global import, including in 1972, leading a Caribbean consensus against the mighty US over the Cuban embargo.

“We, together with Barbados, Guyana and Jamaica, took a moral stance for which we gained universal respect, which led to us at the UN gaining a reputation, as we did with the International Criminal Court, for being the moral conscience of the global community.”

Charles recalled Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Amery Browne recently meeting a UN team including Palestine’s official at the UN.

“Minister Browne met with Riyad Mansour, permanent observer of the state of Palestine to the UN yesterday and reiterated TT’s support for the two-state solution, with Israel and Palestine co-existing as sovereign and neighbouring countries.” However, Charles lamented, “no promises that TT will be recognising Palestine as a state.

“Is it because we are concerned about angering the US, which voted last Thursday in the Security Council against Palestine being a UN member state? It is noted that the US blocked the UN Security Council from moving forward on a Palestinian bid to be recognised as a full member state at the UN.

“Are we concerned that this may jeopardise hopes for our almost comatose Dragon gas?”

The US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) has allowed a two-year period for the Dragon deal (subject to renewal), as an exemption from sanctions imposed owing to allegations of undemocratic behaviour by the Nicolas Maduro Government.

Otherwise, the US recently said international firms involved in Venezuela’s oil and gas sector under a general OFAC licence must soon wind up their operations.

Charles claimed the Government’s approach has always been “too little, too late,” or total inaction while hoping the problem would go away.

He alleged an “ostrich-like posture,” amid the many conflicts which arise in TT’s global relations

Charles alleged that despite TT’s holding the seat of president of the UN General Assembly as a gift from the last PP administration, this country was now seen as a virtual non-player in the global arena.

“Whether it be rating agencies reports, human-rights and human-trafficking reviews by the US State Department, or numerous negative travel advisories, or being on an EU blacklist, or inaction on recognising the state of Palestine, we are not seen as leaders – intellectual, moral or otherwise – but followers at best, even in Caricom.”

He said TT must give some serious thought to its foreign policy.

“Where we are on important global issues, what should be our posture, what alliances are critical to our national interest, what tangible benefits do we wish to derive, and whether our foreign policy should be governed by principles and if so which, or pragmatic self-interest, or mere survival or a desire to be irrelevant?

“Our Foreign and Caricom Affairs Ministry should follow in the footsteps of our Caricom neighbours and recognise Palestine as a state. It is the right thing to do.”