NAM meet cancelled after Israel bars envoys

Ministers and representatives from Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cuba and Malaysia were denied permits to enter.

Jerusalem/Ramallah: A meeting of a NAM committee, that includes India, to support a Palestinian bid for upgraded UN membership, was cancelled at the last minute on Sunday after Israel refused to allow representatives of five countries to enter the occupied West Bank.

The meeting of the 12 representatives of Non-Aligned Movement`s Palestine committee with Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership was scheduled for this evening.

Ministers and representatives were to attend the two-day meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, and were to sign a declaration in support of a fresh Palestinian bid seeking upgrading of its status from observer to non-member state.

Ministers and representatives from Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cuba and Malaysia were denied permits to enter.

Secretary (East) at the Ministry of External Affairs, Sanjay Singh, who was on his way to attend the meeting of 12 NAM members will not be arriving here and return to New Delhi from Amman.

"Israel has refused to issue entry permit to five senior officials who were expected to attend the meetings so President Mahmoud Abbas was left with no choice but to cancel it," an official at the PA Presidency said.

Officials at the Israeli foreign ministry said in response that permits were denied to representatives coming from five countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

"Officials from other countries, like India, which have diplomatic ties with Israel can attend the same without any problems," Ilana Sthein, deputy spokesperson at the Israeli foreign ministry said.

"In any case nothing good comes out of these meetings for Israel and we could not have expected something different given that the next NAM conference is scheduled in Tehran later this month," Shtein stressed.

Announcing the purpose of the meeting last week, PA foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki had said that the session was meant to introduce NAM members to the Palestinian situation and to ask for their support should the Palestinian Authority ask to become a non-member state in the United Nations General Assembly.

"The meeting aims to stress the right of our people and leadership to hold conferences on our land and to support our struggle to end the occupation and settlements and establish our independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital," al-Malki said.

"The committee will issue a `Declaration of Ramallah` after the meeting which will be presented at a NAM conference in Tehran later in August", the PA Foreign Minister had said.

The request was then to be put to the UN General Assembly on September 27. The move comes a year after Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas tried to obtain full member status. The US had said it would veto any resolution in this regard brought to vote before the UN Security Council.

Besides India, ministers and officials from Egypt, Algeria, South Africa, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Cuba and Colombia were expected to attend the meeting.

The representatives were to be flown by helicopter from a Jordanian airport to Ramallah in a move that requires Israeli permission.