Venezuela and Palestine Dispel Rumors of Diplomatic Rift Over Scholarship Program

Venezuelan and Palestinian authorities reaffirmed their close ties today following rumors of diplomatic friction circulated by an Associated Press report last week.

By Lucas Koerner
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Palestinian students arrive in Venezuela (AP)
Palestinian students arrive in Venezuela (AP)

Caracas, July 16,  2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan and Palestinian authorities reaffirmed their close ties today following rumors of diplomatic friction circulated by an Associated Press report last week.
 
Titled “Palestinians Quit Medical Study in Venezuela”, the AP story cited anonymous sources suggesting that one-third of Palestinian medical students studying in Venezuela had dropped out of the program, which allegedly “raised diplomatic tensions between the two allies”.
 
These allegations were, however, roundly dismissed by the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, which denounced the AP article as a “speculative work based on anonymous sources” intended to “discredit the initiative of the Bolivarian government to support Palestinian students in studying medicine in Venezuela”.
 
According to the Ministry, 129 Palestinians are currently in Venezuela pursuing their medical studies “with complete normality” and 20 are now in their final stage of training as integral communitarian doctors.

In its press statement, the Ministry also denied rumors of diplomatic tension between the two nations, insisting that "relations between Venezuela and Palestine, sister peoples and governments, have been and are evidently excellent".
 
The AP story, which was republished in various newspapers including the privately-owned Venezuelan daily El Nacional, as well as the New York Times, and Israel's Ha’aretz and Ynet, was also flatly rejected by the Palestinian Ministry of Education.

The Ministry asserted that students who dropped out of the program had left for personal reasons unrelated to the quality of the program, which it described as "one of the best medical accomplishments which helped reduce the high mortality rate among women and children.”

Contrary to the allegations circulated by AP, relations between Ramallah and Caracas remain "strong and deep", the Ministry stated.

For his part, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki reaffirmed his government's commitment to continue the program.

“We continue to work with the official authorities in Venezuela to bring new students to study medicine and other specializations offered by universities and schools in Venezuela.”

Last November, 119 Palestinian medical students arrived in Venezuela as part of the Yasser Arafat Scholarship Program, which seeks to train 1000 Palestinians in diverse fields.

Under Chavez and Maduro, Venezuela has become one of Palestine's firmest allies, supplying oil to Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories at a preferential rate as well as shipping humanitarian aid to Gaza during Israel's brutal assault last summer that killed over 2100 Palestinians.