Palestine asks Trinidad and Tobago for help – UN committee seeks assistance in Gaza plight

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the UN Riyad Mansour, right, and Permanent Representative of Senegal to the UN Cheikh Niang at a media conference with the Bureau of the Committee of the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People at the United Nations office on Chancery Lane, Port of Spain, on April 23. – Photo by Faith Ayoung

A Palestinian diplomat in a UN team visiting this country on April 23 asked Trinidad and Tobago to help end Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip and to recognise Palestine as a state.

Palestine’s permanent observer to the UN, Riyad Mansour, made this call at a briefing at the UN office in Port of Spain, with diplomats from three sympathetic nations. He is part of the UN’s Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, set up in 1975 to champion Palestinian rights and a peaceful resolution to the question of Palestine.

Last October 7, hundreds of Hamas fighters attacked communities in Israel, killing 1,200 people and seizing 250 as hostages to Gaza, amid reported sexual assaults (said BBC News). Since then, Israel’s attack on Gaza has killed 33,000 people and destroyed many buildings and facilities. Israel was created as a State in 1948 on lands where Jews had an ancestral connection, but where hundreds of thousands of resident Arabs were expelled in an episode known as Al Nakba (the catastrophe), and replaced by an influx of Jews fleeing persecution in Europe particularly under Nazism.

Mansour said he had met Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Amery Browne.

“We were received in a very warm and perceptive way by the Honourable Foreign Minister Browne.”

He said the delegation asked for Trinidad and Tobago to recognise the state of Palestine.

“He said, ‘Our doors are open.’

“We welcome that, we appreciate that, and we want to continue the dialogue and discussion to see an implementation of what we hope would be the promising recognition of the State of Palestine soon, the best investment in peace and saving the two-State solution.”

Mansour said the mission also discussed visas for people holding Palestinian passports.

“We have 141 countries that recognise us. It should not be difficult for Palestinians to receive visas, to be allowed to come to this country for business, for education, for whatever.”

Palestinians should be easily processed to enter TT, he said, rather than an immigration officer not seeing Palestine on his list of known countries.

He hoped for a good relationship with TT and the region, saying only four or five out of 33 regional countries had not yet recognised Palestine.

The diplomat said Palestinians had faced atrocity and suffering in general, and more so now in Gaza.

Saying Israel has pushed Palestinians from north to central to south Gaza, and next to “God knows where” or perhaps the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, he said, “We don’t need another Nakba.”

Accusing Israel of a false narrative, he said reacting to October 7 did not license them to kill 35,000 Palestinians, three-quarters of whom were women, children or the elderly.

Mansour said 80,000 Palestinians have been wounded, even as starvation was being used as a weapon of war amid reports of famine in Gaza.

“We support the UN secretary general demanding a humanitarian ceasefire. We need a ceasefire!”

He said Palestinians were real human beings, with names, stories, relatives and lives. The UN team in its visits hoped that telling a story would help end the war.

Mansour hoped Gaza could rebuild and seek a political solution, saying children had been out of school for six months. Post-war, he anticipated the recognition of a State of Palestine.

Mansour said 141 countries recognise Palestine and said it made sense for TT to now do like most countries in this region.

At the 11 am briefing, he said the few regional countries not recognising Palestine were Jamaica, Guyana and The Bahamas, but by 6 pm Jamaica publicly signalled its recognition.

In the question session, Mansour said TT has supported UN resolutions on Palestine. He said the team would leave TT that day to go to Georgetown to meet Guyana President Dr Irfaan Ali and Caricom, the latter which he said had called for a ceasefire. He said the Gaza tragedy has led to a lot of empathy for Palestinians.

Newsday asked about efforts to get a meeting of minds between Israel and Palestine.

Mansour said, Israel tried to say history began on October 7.

“We are against the killing of human beings, innocent civilians regardless of whom is doing it, them or us.” He doubted Israel had ever said similar.

“They think the lives of Israeli Jews are in a special category and they would be offended if you compare it to the life of a Palestinian child.”

He said Palestinians were open to talk and negotiation.

“If you did not watch the behaviour of the Israeli ambassador at the UN, I advise you to revisit some of the webcasts of the Security Council. He insults everyone. It’s either his way or the highway.” Mansour alleged the Israeli diplomat’s “complete contempt and disregard” for the UN.

Saying Palestine was “ready and willing to negotiate” under UN resolutions and international law, he asked if Israel could say the same.

“We do not have the conditions that the two sides want to talk to each other because one side (Israel) does not want to recognise my (Palestine’s) existence.

“The Israeli Knesset (Parliament) a month ago legislated by 99 votes out of 120 that the Palestinian state does not exist.

“So if he negates my existence, what is there for you to suggest to me to talk to them?” Alternatively, Mansour said any recognition would be “The first step in the right direction.”

Newsday asked if the committee had met Israeli diplomats at the UN to dialogue.

Committee member Senegal’s UN representative Chiekh Niang replied, “Israel always turns down our invitations.”

Also present were the UN representatives from Cuba, Ernesto Siberon Guzman, and from Nicaragua, Jaime Hermida Castillo.

Dr Amery Browne  told Newsday via WhatsApp, “TT has been a leading voice in the global advocacy for peace in the Middle East, and during the current violence being unleashed in Gaza we have been consistent in our calls for an immediate ceasefire and lasting peace via implementation of a two-state solution.”

He said TT’s voice had been augmented by the clear multilateral leadership from UN General Assembly President Dennis Francis. Saying Palestine previously achieved non-member observer state status at the UN, Browne said he was enthusiastic to meet the committee.

In these wide-ranging talks, the committee’s thanked TT for its principled positions on Palestine and peace in the Middle East, including TT’s excellent record of support and co-sponsorship of UN resolutions designed to end the cycle of horrific violence and bring relief to those most affected by it.

“The meeting also featured detailed dialogue on determinations made by a growing number of states to recognise the state of Palestine in advance of the achievement of full UN membership.

“This matter continues to be under active consideration by Cabinet, and information shared by the visiting delegation will be important and relevant in helping to determine the next steps.”

UNC MP for Barataria/San Juan Saddam Hosein  told Newsday via WhatsApp, “I welcome the calls for TT to recognise Palestine as a state. It will send a strong message to the world of our commitment to the right of self determination of the people of Palestine.”

He lamented the tremendous suffering of the people of Palestine and the gruesome and indiscriminate killing of thousands of innocent Palestinians including children.

“Trinidad and Tobago must join our other Caribbean counterparts and recognise Palestine as a State.” Recognition would show TT’s support and solidarity for the people of Palestine, he said.

“Last week Barbados did so and today Jamaica made an announcement that they have recognised the State of Palestine.”

Jamaican Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith said in a statement a two-state solution would help Israel’s security and Palestinians’ dignity and rights.

“By recognising the state of Palestine, Jamaica strengthens its advocacy towards a peaceful solution.”

She urged, “an immediate ceasefire, the release of hostages and increased access to humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza.”