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Chile to open embassy in Palestine, says president

Palestinian foreign ministry praises decision as affirmation of Santiago's support for independent Palestinian state
Chile's President Gabriel Boric addresses the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York on 20 September 2022 (Reuters)

Chile is planning to open an embassy in Palestine, President Gabriel Boric has said, in a move he called an attempt to get "international law be respected".

Chile's Foreign Minister Antonia Urrejola confirmed the plan on Thursday but said there was not a clear timeline for it and that Santiago still recognises both Israel and Palestine as states. Boric has supported the Palestinian cause long before he took office in March this year. 

He made the comments at a private ceremony hosted by the city's Palestinian diaspora community in the capital Santiago. If implemented, Chile would join only a handful of other embassies that have offices in Palestine.

"I am taking a risk [saying] this... we are going to raise our official representation in Palestine from having a charge d'affaires. Now we are going to open an embassy," Boric said.

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The Palestinian foreign ministry praised the decision, which it said "affirms the principled position of Chile and its president in support of international law and the right of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state", according to Palestinian news agency Wafa.

The Israeli embassy in Chile and foreign ministry have not commented on the decision. 

Chile's Palestinian community is estimated to include 300,000 people, most coming from the Bethlehem area in the occupied West Bank, including the villages of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour.

Chile previously opened a representative office in Ramallah in 1998 and in 2011 it recognised Palestine as a state and supported it joining Unesco.

The Chilean president has not said where the location of the new embassy would be, but the choice could be symbolic. Chile would then join only a handful of other embassies that have offices in Palestine.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 war, and East Jerusalem, which it later annexed in a move not recognised by the majority of the international community. 

East Jerusalem is seen by the Palestinian Authority as a future capital for a Palestinian state, and the location of the embassy could strengthen that.

In 2017, the United States moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem under US President Donald Trump, in a move believed to strengthen Israel's claim over Jerusalem as its capital. 

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