UNESCO logo 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy of UNESCO)
The Arab League decided on Sunday to pursue its efforts to back the Palestinian
request for membership in the United Nations and the UN’s Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization.
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The league entrusted a special
committee of experts to study the political and legal alternatives should the
Palestinian request be turned down, according to a statement issued by the Arab
League representatives after a meeting in Doha, Qatar.
The Arab League
said its members would intensify contacts with the UN secretary-general and
members of the Security Council and UNESCO to secure their support for the
Palestinian statehood bid.
The statement said the Arab League also called
on the Quartet to hold Israel accountable for continued construction in the
settlements and its “anti-peace policies.”
The representatives also
strongly condemned Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s recent remarks against
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Lieberman last week called Abbas
a big obstacle to peace in the Middle East.
The Arab League meeting was
chaired by Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jasem al-Thani and was attended by
Abbas and foreign ministers of several Arab countries.
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briefed the Arab representatives on the outcome of his talks with a number of
world leaders regarding the statehood bid.
Abbas said he was determined
to go ahead with his efforts to gain Palestinian membership in the Security
Council and UNESCO, saying this was a case of self-determination for the
But while it is considered unlikely that the Palestinians
would succeed in their bid to the Security Council to become the 194th member of
the United Nations, it remains very possible that they could become the newest
member of UNESCO as early as Monday.
It is expected that UNESCO could
vote on their bid during its general conference in Paris. A two-thirds majority
is needed for membership approval.
Palestinians expect to win full
membership in UNESCO, Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said on
UNESCO is the first UN agency the Palestinians have sought to
join as a full member since PA President Mahmoud Abbas applied for full
membership of the United Nations on September 23.
“I expect that the
voting will happen and that Palestine will get the number of votes required for
membership,” Maliki told Reuters.
“We have enough votes to get over the
Palestinians view UNESCO membership as a moral
victory, which will assist them in their bid for full UN
Israel has lobbied hard against the Palestinians’ UNESCO bid,
which comes as the Quartet is trying to jump-start stalled negotiations between
Israel and the Palestinians.
Paul Hirschson, a Foreign Ministry
spokesman, said that as of Sunday night, it was unclear if the vote would
actually occur on Monday. It remained possible that the Palestinians would not
have enough support because only those countries present can
Abstentions do not count, and so for approval the Palestinians need
two-thirds of those present in the room to support their UNESCO membership bid,
It would be a “tragedy” if it passes, he said.
turn the Palestinians into a state and it won’t change their reality on the
ground,” Hirschson said.
UNESCO membership would encourage the
Palestinians to avoid negotiations and would perpetuate the conflict, he
Hirschson added that he hoped the international community
understood and voted against the Palestinian UNESCO bid.
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