Palestine has explained that it will accept nothing less than full UN membership, and that once granted, would not seek to upgrade to observer state.
The Palestinians will not accept anything less than full United Nations (UN) membership and do not want an upgrade to an observer state in the world body, their foreign minister said on Thursday.
Riyad al-Malki’s remarks suggested the Palestinians would not seek such an upgrade once their bid for full state membership meets its widely expected fate—failure due to opposition from the United States and other governments.
Malki told journalists in Ramallah the Palestinians could have won observer state status long ago and were not interested in it now. They currently hold the status of observer entity.
“We do not want, after all of these struggles, sacrifices, and efforts by the entire Palestinian people, to accept an observer state in the United Nations. We will not accept less than we deserve: a full member state,” he said.
Analysts said if the Palestinian leadership does not seek enhanced status after failing to gain full membership it would mark a retreat. But they said Malki’s remarks may not reflect the path President Mahmoud Abbas may take.
“This reads like a tactical move,” said George Giacaman, a political analyst. “It could be directed towards the Americans, the Israelis, to show flexibility, but I would not view it as a final position.”
The Palestinian bid for statehood recognition in the UN system has drawn fierce criticism and sanctions from the United States and from Israel, which in 1967 captured territory the Palestinians now seek for an independent country.
The US Congress has frozen about $200-million in economic aid to the Palestinian Authority over its statehood quest. Israel this week froze duties it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in response to its admission to the UN cultural agency Unesco.
But one US lawmaker who had held up an additional $150-million in security aid for the Palestinians, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, lifted her hold on the money, a spokesperson said on Thursday.
Ros-Lehtinen remains a sharp critic of the Palestinian push for statehood status at the UN But she agreed to unlock the money for training Palestinian security forces after the US State Department sent her 1 000 pages of information she requested about the uses and purposes of the aid, her spokesperson said.
Malki said for now the Palestinians would not seek to join more UN agencies as a full member. “At this moment, we are not concerned with applying for membership for Palestine in the rest of the international organisations,” he said.
Unesco’s vote in favour of Palestinian membership triggered an automatic cut-off in US funding to the agency under US law. The idea of the Palestinians joining more international agencies had raised the prospect of bodies such as the World Health Organisation also losing their US funding.
“The official Palestinian position is to concentrate only on the request for membership which we presented to the United Nations,” Malki said.
Abbas applied for full UN membership for the state of Palestine on September 23. The request is now being considered by the UN Security Council, but the United States has already pledged to veto it in the 15-nation body if it is brought to a vote.
The Palestinians would score a moral victory and force Washington to cast its veto if they can muster nine votes to support them in the council. A council resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes to pass.
Many UN diplomats believe the Palestinians would get only eight votes, and a meeting of council ambassadors on Thursday to review the issue produced no surprises, envoys said.
They said Russia, China, Brazil, India, Lebanon and South Africa supported the Palestinian bid, the United States opposed it, and Britain, France and Colombia said they would abstain if there were a vote. Gabon and Nigeria, expected to support the Palestinians, and Germany and Portugal, expected to abstain, did not spell out their positions and Bosnia did not speak.
Bosnia is also thought likely to abstain because its Muslim, Serb and Croat collective presidency cannot agree.
Palestinian UN representative Riyad Mansour told reporters nations were still deciding positions. He declined to say whether the Palestinians would push for a vote.
The Palestinians will have to make that decision after the council concludes its review of the application next week with a report expected to say it cannot reach consensus.
Time for a different approach
Both the United States and Israel say the Palestinian push in the United Nations is unilateral and an attempt to bypass peace talks, whose resumption Abbas has conditioned on an Israeli freeze of settlement activity in occupied territory.
The Palestinians say those negotiations have failed to bring them closer to the independent state they seek in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. They say it is time to try a different approach.
The last round of peace talks collapsed last year.
An upgrade to “non-member state”—an idea also favoured by France President Nicolas Sarkozy—could be won through a resolution in the general assembly, where the Palestinians would likely glean the support that got them into Unesco.
They would then enjoy status equal to the Vatican and secure the all-important title of a state.—Reuters