Palestinian president’s special envoy Hanan Jarrar arrived in Malawi on Wednesday to hand over a letter of protest from Mahmoud Abbas against President Lazarus Chakwera’s decision to open an embassy in the disputed city of Jerusalem and has asked Lilongwe to immediately withdraw the decision.
The Palestine envoy handed the protest letter to Chakwera, who announced after the election in June this year, that he will establish a diplomatic mission with Israel in Jerusalem.
“Any step taken to establish a diplomatic mission in Jerusalem constitutes a violation of relevant United Nations resolutions,” warned Jarrar in a statement on her arrival.
Chakwera met Jarrar and received the letter.
Jarrar was tight lipped on her discussions with the Malawi leader on the matter, saying Chakwera was “accommodative.”
Miles away in Israel, Malawi’s Foreign Affairs Minister Eisenhower Mkaka was meeting that country’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu over the same issue.
Mkaka on Tuesday said the east southern nation will open a full embassy to Israel in Jerusalem by the summer of 2021.
Malawi would become the first African nation to do so.
Mkaka, currently on a visit to Israel, called the decision a “bold and significant step”.
But the Palestinian envoy said Jerusalem is still a disputed territory and called on all countries “that have established diplomatic missions at Jerusalem to withdraw such missions from the Holy City”.
Jarrar said the UN Security Council Resolution 476 (1980), recently reaffirmed by Resolution 2334 (2016), does not recognize any action that seeks to alter the character and status of Jerusalem.
“Under international law, East Jerusalem [including the Old City and its holy sites] are not legally part of Israel,” Jarrar said.
“Since Israel’s establishment in 1948, the US and the international community have refused to recognize the sovereignty of any country to any part of Jerusalem in the absence of a permanent Arab-Israeli peace agreement.”
There was no immediate comment from the government of Malawi.
Opposition members of Malawi’s parliament have recently also raised concern about opening an embassy in Jerusalem, but President Chakwera — a former preacher — has been firm on the move.
Chakwera justified his foreign policy decision, saying that it was not new in Malawi, as during the one-party regime of founding President Hastings Kamuzu Banda, the country also had diplomatic ties with Israel until 1994.
Chakwera’s decision follows that of US President Donald Trump, who in December 2017 — breaking with longstanding diplomatic practice — recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US embassy to the city in May this year.
Israel considers the Holy City its eternal capital, but Palestinians want East Jerusalem, seized in a 1967 Middle East war, as part of a future state.