After two weeks of tension and diplomatic conflict, on the morning of October 19, President Petro met separately with the ambassadors of Israel and Palestine in Bogotá. The meetings took place at the Casa de Nariño, the official residence of the Colombian president. Also present was Foreign Minister Alvaro Leyva, who had been involved in the recent controversy with the Israeli ambassador, Gali Dagan.
“I met today with the Ambassador of Israel and the Ambassador of Palestine. I have expressed my position of achieving an international peace conference that paves the way for two independent and free states,” said the Colombian president through social media.
Gustavo Petro also conveyed his “solidarity with Israeli and Palestinian children who have the right to live in peace.”
Colombia to Open an Embassy in Palestine
In the same statement, Petro announced that the country would open an embassy in Palestine, specifically in Ramallah, which currently serves as the de facto Palestinian capital, despite competing claims regarding Jerusalem.
The president confirmed that Colombia will send humanitarian aid to Gaza, as was announced a few days ago. The region has been the target of the Israeli counteroffensive, resulting in mass displacement of the civilian population, which has also suffered from Israeli military bombardments.
The goal of the meetings with the top diplomatic representatives of Israel and Palestine was to ease the tension that has escalated in Colombia since the outbreak of the military conflict in the Middle East on October 7. President Petro did not hold back in criticizing the Israeli military counteroffensive, which has been affecting civilians in the Gaza Strip.
In these criticisms, the president even compared the policy of siege on Palestinian civilians to the genocidal policies of Nazi Germany. The Nazi reference continues to be highly controversial in the Jewish community, and criticism of the Colombian president was swift.
Both inside and outside the country, Gustavo Petro was accused of not respecting the neutrality expected of a head of state. Some even labeled him “anti-Semitic.” During the week, Israel even threatened to stop importing military technology, thereby violating an agreement signed between the two countries last year during the presidency of Iván Duque.
Petro also faced criticism from the conservative Colombian opposition. From the Centro Democrático party of former President Duque, questions were raised about the president not prioritizing national interests over condemning Israeli actions in Gaza.
In parallel, the Colombian Ambassador to Israel, Margarita Manjarrez, held discussions with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen. From this meeting, an agreement was reached that today, Foreign Minister Alvaro Leyva will speak with Cohen by phone to normalize relations between both countries.
Colombia Proposes Peace Conference
During the meetings in Bogotá, President Petro emphasized the need for a peace conference, as he did in his speech at the recent United Nations General Assembly before the hostilities began.
In this regard, the president stressed “the urgency of convening an International Conference as soon as possible to prevent the current conflict from dragging on or expanding geographically.” Palestinian Ambassador Raouf Almalki, for his part, emphasized the importance of such a conference and thanked President Petro for this initiative.
Similarly, Israeli Ambassador Gali Dagan highlighted “the importance of Israel’s relationship with Colombia and, with regard to the current situation, explained that his country had been the victim of a brutal and inadvertent aggression, the largest in history since the Holocaust, with nearly 1,400 casualties, including high numbers of children, women, and the elderly.”
The Colombian president responded to Dagan that he “is not anti-Semitic” and that he understands Israeli pain. However, he also emphasized “the suffering of the Palestinian people, who were experiencing the effects of prolonged occupation and an excessive use of force by Israeli security forces.”
Gustavo Petro, finally, expressed his regret for the suffering of the civilian population on both sides, concurring with the Israeli ambassador in expressing their “concern for the innocent victims of the conflict” and agreeing that peace should result from dialogue, as they pledged to continue the conversation through diplomatic channels.