With the UN General Assembly in September nearing, the question of the Palestinian Authority's future bid for statehood seems to be dominating the political discourse worldwide.
A joint summit of SICA ("Sistema para la Integración Centroamericana" or "System for the Central American Integration") and CARICOM, ("The Caribbean Community") held on Saturday, turned stormy over the question of Palestinian recognition.
CARICOM has 15 member-nations and five associate nations, while SICA has seven member-nations, one associate nation and eight nations which have observer status. Both groups aim to promote economic, cultural and social integration and cooperation among their members and each other.
The SICA-CARICOM Summit was meant to focus on regional cooperation in various fields, but sources in the Israeli Foreign Ministry told Ynet on Monday that the Palestinians sought to use the summit to pressure the Latin American nations into pledging their support for Ramallah's UN bid.
As the summit was set to begin, the Foreign Ministry got wind of the fact that Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki officially applied to speak at the conference, despite the fact that the matter of the PA's UN bid was never included in its agenda.
The Foreign Ministry then decided to appeal to the nation presiding over the summit, El Salvador, and ask it to stop al-Malki from addressing the conference.
A diplomatic squabble soon followed, as SICA-CARICOM members that support the Palestinian Authority's bid demanded Ramallah's FM be allowed to speak; while Israel's
allies, such as El Salvador and Panama, insisted that the summit should retain its regional focus.
Al-Malki's initial request to speak was denied. After claiming that his sole desire was to give a "courtesy speech," al-Malki's request was granted – providing he leaves the hall as soon as he finished his address.
Jerusalem's subsequent demand that the same courtesy be extended to an Israeli delegate was granted, and the Foreign Ministry's Deputy Director for Central and South American and the Caribbean
Dorit Shavit addressed the forum on Saturday as well.
Foreign Ministry sources said that they were satisfied with the fact the ministry was able to thwart the Palestinians' primary goal – a regional SICA-CARICOM statement supporting the PA's UN bid.