West Bank summit shelved as Israel bars envoys


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The Independent Online

A pro-Palestinian meeting of foreign ministers from 12 states in the Non-Aligned Movement was cancelled today after Israel barred entry to five of the representatives, including from Malaysia and Indonesia.

The meeting, to have started in Ramallah in the West Bank last night, was expected to declare support for plans by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, to seek affiliation to the UN General Assembly as a “non-member” state.

While the Palestinian foreign minister, Ryad al-Maliki, had said Mr Abbas would announce his intentions at the Assembly next month, he put no date on the actual application. Efforts are expected, including by Middle East international envoy Tony Blair, to find a formula to enable Israeli-Palestinian talks and prevent the application, at least before the US elections.

The barred ministers, also including those from Cuba, Bangladesh and Algeria, were to have crossed the Israeli-controlled border from Jordan. The Algerian representative was thought to have already withdrawn. The other invited ministers, including Egypt’s recently re-confirmed foreign minister Mohammed Amr, pulled out after Israel informed Jordan of the ban on their colleagues.

Yigal Palmor, Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman, said: “We have cleared entry for representatives of countries which have diplomatic relations with Israel and we have not cleared those which do not.”

But Palestine Liberation Organization executive member Hanan Ashrawi said Israel was exploiting its position as an occupying power “to prevent Palestine from communication with the countries of the world and to isolate the Palestinian people and its institutions."