PA President Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Chip East)
RAMALLAH - The Palestinians will seek a vote on their bid for full membership of UNESCO on Oct. 30, Foreign Minister Riyal al-Malki said on Wednesday, despite what he called US threats to pull funding from the UN cultural agency.
The initiative is part of a Palestinian push, opposed by the United States, for recognition as a state in the UN system -- a move the Palestinians hope will strengthen their standing vis-à-vis Israel.
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UNESCO is the first UN agency the Palestinians have sought to join as a full member since applying for full membership of the United Nations on Sept. 23. The bid for a full UN seat, which can be granted only by the Security Council, is destined to fail because of opposition by Washington, which has a veto in the forum.
But UNESCO is one agency the Palestinians can join as a full member regardless of their wider UN status.
Malki said a Palestinian representative would address UNESCO's General
Conference on Sunday and the Palestinians were aiming for a vote the
"We are trying with all effort, through our ambassador in UNESCO, to
have a vote on our request for membership of UNESCO at the time that we
give the speech," he said in an interview with Voice of Palestine radio
broadcast on Wednesday.
"We hope that we will succeed in this effort despite our recognition of
great pressure which the United States of America is leading inside
UNESCO," Malki said.
He said there were "great threats ... that if Palestine's membership of
UNESCO is approved, the United States will stop its assistance to that
A vote in favor of Palestinian membership would trigger an automatic
cutoff in US funding to the agency under US law. The United States
provides 22 percent of UNESCO's funding.
The UNESCO board decided on Oct. 6 to allow the 193 member states to
vote on the Palestinians' application for full admission -- a bid
signaling new Palestinian determination to ignore pressure from
Washington, one of the Palestinian Authority's main donors.
The United States views the Palestinian quest for recognition as a state
in the UN system as a unilateral move unhelpful to its efforts to
revive peace negotiations with Israel, which it says are the only way
The Palestinians say peace talks with Israel, which also opposes the
Palestinian UN initiative, have brought them no closer to their goal of
independence in the two decades since the negotiations first got under
The prospect of the Palestinians seeking full membership of other UN
agencies heavily funded by the United States could threaten US financial
support for bodies including the World Health Organization.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Reuters in an Oct. 12
interview she had made the case to US lawmakers that the administration
should have the flexibility to decide whether or not to cut off such
agencies if they take in the Palestinians.
Speaking about the UNESCO membership bid, Malki said the United States
wanted to make it seem like the Palestinians would be to blame for any
"They want to make Palestine responsible for all these results, and
therefore, matters will not be easy in UNESCO in the coming two days,
but despite that, we will continue in our effort," he said.