US upgrades status of Palestinian mission
The United States has upgraded the Palestinian mission in Washington in a symbolic show of confidence in the viability of creating a Palestinian state, US officials said Friday, dpa reported.
The new protocol will allow the Palestinian mission to call itself the "General Delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organization," a step above its previous status, and will be allowed for the first time to fly the PLO flag, officials said.
The name brings it into conformity with the PLO's missions in Europe, Canada and several Latin American countries, State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said. But the change does not give PLO representatives diplomatic immunity or other privileges afforded to embassies and consulates, he said.
The Palestinians requested the changes and the US government decided to approve it, Crowley said. "We evaluated it and we recognized its importance to them and we granted it," he said.
"These steps have symbolic value," he added. "They reflect improved relations between the United States and Palestinians, but they have no meaning under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations."
The United States has been mediating indirect talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, hoping to get the peace process back on track. US officials have begun urging both sides to begin direct negotiations towards a settlement.