Abbas vows to push ahead with UN membership bid

PA’s UN envoy says "it is now a fact that we do exist in the UN system as a state," even as UNSC vote highly unlikely to accept statehood request.

By JORDANA HORN IN NEW YORK AND
November 13, 2011 01:19
3 minute read.
Palestinian Authority UN envoy Riyad Mansour

Palestinian Authority UN envoy Riyad Mansour 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas vowed to seek full United Nations membership, even as he admitted he had failed to secure UN Security Council approval for the statehood drive.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to Tunisia on Friday, Abbas also ruled out the possibility of dissolving the PA in response to the stymied statehood initiative.

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Abbas said he did not expect the statehood bid to succeed “this time.”

However, he stressed that the Palestinian leadership would continue its efforts to gain membership in the UN.

His remarks came shortly after the Security Council met Friday in New York behind closed doors to review a sub committee report presented on whether the Palestinians met the criteria for admission to the UN. But the council did not raise a vote on the issue, nor is it clear when or if such a vote would be brought to the body.

Palestinians acknowledge that they do not have the nine votes necessary to obtain a favorable vote on their membership request from the 15 nations that sit on the Security Council.

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US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said after the meeting that it is unclear what will happen next in the Security Council as to the Palestinians’ bid for admission.

“The Palestinians have to make their own choice as to how to proceed,” Rice said after the meeting. “They’ve presented their application. The council has done its part thus far, and, I think, reported in a timely and responsible way. And what the Palestinians decide to do next we will, I think, all be waiting to see.”

The US had said that it planned to vote against the Palestinians’ bid. It also threatened to use its veto powers on the council to block the bid, had the body approved it.

The Palestinians have pushed forward anyway. Initially they had hoped to sway the US to change its mind.

As that seemed increasingly unlikely, they had hoped to secure a moral victory by gaining the necessary nine votes, and showing that the US was isolated in its support of Israel.

Rice told reporters on Friday, “The United States has made its own views quite clear, both directly to the Palestinians and to the larger international community and the council membership.”

The membership issue has split the Security Council almost in half. Diplomats say Russia, China, Lebanon, Brazil, India, South Africa and probably Gabon and Nigeria would support the Palestinians, the United States would vote against and Britain, France, Germany, Portugal, Colombia and Bosnia would likely abstain, with Germany possibly voting against.

Palestinian officials declined to spell out their strategy for statehood before an Arab League meeting next week. They could request a prompt Security Council vote, even though that appears doomed to fail. Alternatively, they could make a fresh membership attempt in the Security Council in the new year, when five seats will have changed.

Another much-discussed option would be to go the General Assembly and request an upgrade to an observer “nonmember state” like the Vatican. That would fall short of full membership but would implicitly recognize Palestine as a state and would likely win a majority in the 193-nation assembly.

German Ambassador Peter Wittig urged the Palestinians to reconsider what to do. “I think the picture is clear that there is no majority here for admission,” he said.

But Palestinian officials rejected suggestions that their membership drive had failed.

In New York, Palestinian UN representative Riyad Mansour told reporters that following Palestinian admission last month to the UN cultural agency UNESCO, “now it is a fact that we do exist in the UN system as a state.”

The UNESCO move was criticized by Israel and the United States, which suspended funding to the agency.

Ghassan Shaka’ah, member of the PLO Executive Committee said on Saturday, “The membership of Palestine in the UN is a historic and legal right for our people.

“We will continue our efforts in the international arena to achieve this goal and persuade the countries that opposed the move to vote in the future in favor of turning Palestine into the 194th member of the UN,” he said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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