Abbas visits Turkey in first trip since vote

Abbas visits Turkey in first trip since vote

Abbas visits Turkey in first trip since vote

Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas is in Ankara for an official visit. AP photo

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Ankara yesterday afternoon in his first visit abroad following a historic vote at the U.N. General Assembly that bestowed non-member state status on the country.

Abbas’ visit to Turkey is an important gesture and a show of his appreciation to the Turkish government’s strong support for the Palestinians’ bid to upgrade their U.N. status. Abbas was scheduled to address the Turkish Parliament later yesterday before official meetings with high-level Turkish leaders today.

Abbas will today be greeted at Çankaya Palace by President Abdullah Gül in line with the highest level of protocol applied to foreign leaders during official visits. He will also meet with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Although the current occasion is special, Palestinian leaders have previously been accorded full protocol on visits to Turkey, as Ankara recognized Palestine as a state as soon as the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) declared itself as so in 1988.

In November 2007, Abbas received similar, A-level protocol because he was conducting an official visit, Turkish officials said, noting that C-level protocol was implemented in some of Abbas’ other visits because they were working visits, not official visits.

When Abbas arrives, he will be greeted by a company of guardsmen instead of a squad while receiving a 21-gun salute.

Today’s visit is expected to draw special attention because it is Abbas’ first trip abroad since the United Nations General Assembly voted on Nov. 29 to accord Palestine non-member observer status, with 138 countries in the 193-member assembly voting in favor of Palestine, 41 abstaining, five failing to participate, and nine – including the United States, Israel, Canada and a few Pacific island nations – opposing the proposal.

Palestinian authorities have previously said Abbas’ choice to visit Turkey for his first overseas trip demonstrated the importance Palestine attached to Ankara’s support on the vote.