(JTA) — The ex-president of Colombia recognized a Palestinian state days before his successor took over.
President Juan Manuel Santos in an Aug. 3 letter to the Palestinian representative in Colombia said he had decided to “recognize Palestine as a free, independent and sovereign state.”
A day before the letter was written, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had canceled a planned visit to Colombia, the second in a year, to attend the inauguration of Santos’ successor, Ivan Duque, due to the volatile situation on Israel’s border with Gaza.
“Just as the Palestinian people have a right to constitute an independent state, Israel has a right to live in peace alongside its neighbors,” the letter also said.
Duque took office on Tuesday. The new government said it would study the last-minute decision by the former president.
“Given possible omissions that could come to light about the way in which this decision was taken by the outgoing president, the government will cautiously examine its implications and will act according to international law,” Duque’s foreign minister, Carlos Holmes, said in a statement.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday said in a statement that it was “surprised” by the report of the recognition.
At least 136 countries have recognized a Palestinian state, including all the countries in South America.
Duque said during the campaign that he would consider moving the country’s embassy to Jerusalem. Colombia abstained from the December vote in the United Nations General Assembly on a resolution calling for the United States not to move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv nor recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Palestinians claim eastern Jerusalem for their capital.