Interpol approves Palestinian membership

International police agency Interpol voted on Wednesday to include Palestine as a member state, in a new boost to Palestinian efforts for international recognition and influence amid long-stalled negotiations with Israel for full statehood.

The decision drew an angry Israeli reaction and threat of retaliation. It also raised concerns that the Palestinians might use their elevated status to seek the arrests of Israelis, though Palestinian officials said there were no immediate plans to do so.

Interpol announced the inclusion of the “State of Palestine” as well as the Solomon Islands on Twitter and its website on Wednesday after a vote by its general assembly in Beijing.

With the new votes, Interpol will have 192 member countries. Interpol didn’t immediately announce how many members supported Palestinian membership.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki hailed Wednesday’s vote as a “victory for law enforcement” and a “voice of confidence in the capacity of law enforcement in Palestine.” He promised to uphold Palestinian commitments to combating crime and strengthening the rule of law.

In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the decision “seriously harms the chances to achieve peace.”

In Washington, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters that the Palestinian membership could harm peace efforts.

He said he was concerned that the Palestinians would now issue Interpol “red notices,” which the U.S. Justice Department describes as the closest instrument to an international arrest warrant in use today.

“The international community has a great deal at stake in pursuing the peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” Cardin said. “There’s only one way forward: two states living side by side in peace; a Palestinian state and a Jewish state. To try to use international organizations to advance the cause only sets back that opportunity.”

Cardin said any “red notices” issued by the Palestinians “will not be recognised in many countries, including the United States.”

Interpol, based in Lyon, France, is an international clearing house for arrest warrants and police cooperation against cross-border terrorism, trafficking and other crime.

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