Palestine is an ancient country, but at the same time a relatively young state. What exactly connects it and Ukraine? How can Ukraine and Palestine benefit each other? We are talking about this and not only with the Plenipotentiary and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Palestine to Ukraine, Mr. Muhammad Al-Assad.
Please tell us about the history of Palestinian-Ukrainian bilateral relations.
– When Ukraine was still part of the USSR, but had full membership in the UN, it was then that it recognized the Proclamation of the State of Palestine. When Ukraine gained independence, it continued to support us. Since 2008, the Ukrainian mission in the city of Ramallah, which we call the Embassy, has been operating.
When did the Embassy of Palestine in our country start its work?
– In 2001. We respect and love Ukraine. It is a rich country inhabited by good people who deserve peace. You have real wealth – it’s your chernozems, not to mention minerals. That is why it is a great honor for us to be your friends and reliable economic partners.
What areas would you identify as a priority in the relations between our two countries?
– If we talk about Palestine, we must first mention tourism. Tourists from Ukraine come to us. Special tourists. These are pilgrims who visit the holy city for Christians – Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Every year the number of pilgrims reaches about 170 thousand people. We are also interested in cooperation in the field of agriculture in Ukraine, we buy grain from you. However, not only grain. We buy products of the metallurgical industry, in particular fittings, in Ukraine. Unfortunately, there are no large resorts in Palestine. But life does not stand still, we hope in the future that we will be able to cooperate in the aviation industry as well.
We are talking to you at the end of 2017. What events have become the most significant for Ukrainian-Palestinian cooperation this year?
– In my opinion, the fact that Palestinian entrepreneurs have started investing in the Ukrainian economy should be especially noted. This is the pharmaceutical industry. Our entrepreneurs have begun to actively invest in the production of medicines in Ukraine. And it can not but rejoice.
How important is Ukraine’s position in resolving the Middle East armed conflict?
– Very important. Not only in Palestine, but in the whole Arab world, Ukraine’s opinion has been listened to, is being listened to and will be listened to in the future. Canada, the United Kingdom, the EU and Ukraine have always insisted that the Middle East conflict be resolved in accordance with international law, not jungle law. Ukraine has always supported the postulate of creating two states – the Palestinian and the Israeli. We know how Ukraine votes in all international organizations and we appreciate its support.
In connection with the scandalous decision of the US President on the status of the city of Jerusalem, what reaction of Ukraine did you expect? After all, Ukraine did not take part in the vote?
– I have no right to be responsible for Ukraine’s position, but I can note that Ukraine has always voted for a principled position on the Palestinian issue, and I can emphasize that in December 2016 Ukraine voted for Resolution 2334. Let me remind you that during the vote, US representative Niki Hailey expressed her position on those countries that will support the bill at the UN. However, we never said that we should take Jerusalem for ourselves. Jerusalem is no ordinary city. It is a holy city for both Christians and Muslims. We are in favor of East Jerusalem being the capital of Palestine and West Jerusalem the capital of Israel. I would like to emphasize once again that the issue of the status of the holy city of Jerusalem must be resolved in accordance with the norms of international law, and not in accordance with the norms of the law of force.
What were your first impressions of our country?
– I have known and loved your country for a long time. During the Soviet era, I was the director of the Palestinian Cultural Center in Moscow and, in particular, cared for Palestinian students studying in the USSR. In total, there were about 12 thousand. Most of them studied in Ukraine. That’s why I often visited Ukraine, opened exhibitions and so on. I immediately liked you. You know, I recently attended an economic forum in Kherson and said that it is not necessary to go on vacation, say, to a beautiful country like Switzerland, or another country in the world, because here in Ukraine you have your own Switzerland and beauty.
Do you travel a lot in Ukraine?
– Yes of course. I visited all the big cities. From Kharkiv to Lviv. It is impossible not to admire Ukraine.
What do you like most about our country?
– The greatest treasure of each country is its people. There are wonderful people in Ukraine and that is why I would like to wish happiness, peace and prosperity on the eve of New Year and Christmas holidays. I really want everything to be good in your country…