31 May 2005 - PALESTINIANS GRANTED OBSERVER STATUS TO NATO PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY [PRESS COMMUNIQUE]
In a ground-breaking decision, the Palestinian Legislative Council was today (Tuesday) granted observer status to meetings of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA), the Alliance’s parliamentary arm.
"This is a very important decision… for many years European countries have only heard the Israeli voice in these groupings. For peace to become a reality and agreements to be fully implemented, we need to be able to tell our side of the story too," said Hassan Khreisheh, the first deputy speaker of the Palestinian body and one of the two Palestinian delegates.
At the same time, Israel, Algeria, Jordan and Mauritania joined Morocco as Mediterranean Associates of the Assembly, which is made up of 248 delegates from 26 member countries.
The decision, which was taken at the plenary of the NATO PA's Spring Session in Ljubjlana in Slovenia, reflects the widening role NATO parliamentarians are playing in security issues outside the Alliance's traditional area of operations and was welcomed by delegates and current members.
"This shows that we belong to the parliament of the most important and biggest defence union of the world, and the decision is highly appreciated," added Joseph Paritzky of the Israeli Knesset. He welcomed the involvement of the Palestinians and other Arab sates in the work of the Assembly.
The current President of the NATO PA, Pierre Lellouche, visited Israel and the West Bank earlier this month as part of the Assembly's increasing interest in security issues in the "broader Middle East" area.