The PA has strengthened “Palestine’s” standing as a state and its legal arsenal against Israel’s “occupation” of its land by applying to join international treaties, Palestinian UN diplomat Riyad Mansour said on Wednesday.
He spoke in New York hours after Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki in Ramallah submitted applications for 15 international treaties and conventions to representatives of the United Nations, Switzerland and Holland.
The applications did not include a request for recognition as a member state of the International Criminal Court through the Rome Statute. But it did include one for the Fourth Geneva Convention, which Mansour said was the most important application and which was effective immediately.
“Our state is under occupation. This is a significant instrument in providing protection for our civilian population,” said Mansour, who heads the PLO’s Permanent Observer Mission at the UN in New York.
The convention “gives us additional power and strength in defending our nation and the land of our state and ensuring respect for our civilian population,” said Mansour.
“Israel is not honoring and respecting its obligation under international law,” he said, and characterized the treaties, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention, as “enforcement mechanisms.”
This step is just one of a number of plans the PLO has to strengthen the standing of “Palestine” as a state, Mansour said.
In Ramallah, Malki defended the move to reporters, explaining that these moves to strengthen “Palestine’s” legal arsenal were not a sign that it was breaking its commitment to the negotiating process that is due to end on April 29, and that it was not seeking unilateral statehood.
Malki confirmed that the Palestinians still saw themselves as participating in the peace process toward a negotiated final-status agreement.
“We were talking about, and we are still talking about, letters of submission to agencies to protocols and conventions.
And that is it. It is a very straightforward, clear decision that was taken by the Palestinian leadership to apply to these conventions and protocols. I do not see any reason for anyone to think that this decision was intended to harm the negotiations or to alter the current situation,” said Malki.
He spoke with reporters in his ministry during a joint press conference with EU Representative John Gatt-Rutter, who personally handed Malki a copy of the European Union’s ninth progress report on PA participation in the European Neighborhood Program.
Malki cautioned that the Palestinians would now have to meet the requirements of those conventions.
“We have to remember that it means further responsibilities and obligations on the Palestinian side. We will be discussing this at the next cabinet meeting to see what will be required of us,” Malki said.
Malki reminded reporters that Israel’s pledge to release 104 prisoners in four stages during the nine-month negotiating process was the reason the Palestinians had returned to the negotiating table in August. It was for this reason, he said, that the Palestinians had postponed turning to the UN to seek unilateral statehood.
Israel has released 78 prisoners, but has balked at freeing the last batch unless the Palestinians promise to continue peace talks. The final release had been scheduled for March 29.
“[PA] President [Mahmoud] Abbas’s decision to go to the international organizations came after the Israeli government refused to release the fourth group of the Palestinian prisoners as was agreed upon between the Americans, the Palestinians and the Israelis,” Malki said. “This is a commitment that Israel must fulfill.
Israel’s refusal is a severe blow to the US effort, especially [US Secretary of State] John Kerry’s effort.”
Gatt-Rutter said he welcomed Abbas’s commitment to remain in the peace process.
“For us, this is very important,” Gatt-Rutter said. “I hope the latest [negotiation] efforts will succeed. We believe it continues to present a unique opportunity to achieve peace, to fulfill a two-state solution, which remains the base of our position. So I take very positive note of the president’s commitment to continue with these negotiations.
“As you know, the EU has offered a special privileged partnership with both the Palestinians and the Israelis should they reach a final-status agreement.
This something, that we would need to elaborate further, it is supposed to set out an incentive, an objective of peace and of a fullness of relationship with the EU which would go even beyond the close relations we enjoy with our Palestinian friends,” Gatt-Rutter said.