U.N. ups Palestinians' status, makes it head of Group of 77

The United Nations considers the Palestinians to be a non-member state, but grants it many of the same privileges that it would award a member state.

October 17, 2018 01:20
3 minute read.
U.N. ups Palestinians' status, makes it head of Group of 77

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, U.S., September 27, 2018.. (photo credit: CARLO ALLEGRI/REUTERS)


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The UN General Assembly voted 146-3 to place the “State of Palestine” at the head of a group of 134 member nations, known as the Group of 77 and China. There were 15 abstentions.

Israel, the United States and Australia opposed the move. The 15 nations that abstained were: Andorra, Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, The Czech Republic, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Honduras, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Monaco, Poland, Slovakia and Tuvalu.

After the vote, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said, “The Palestinians are not a UN member state or any state at all. The United States will continually point that out in our remarks at UN events led by the Palestinians.

“Today’s UN mistake undermines the prospects for peace by encouraging the illusion held by some Palestinian leaders that they can advance their goals without direct peace negotiations. In fact, today’s vote does nothing to help the Palestinian people,” Haley said.

Her office added, “The United States does not recognize a Palestinian state, notes that no such state has been admitted as a UN member state, and does not believe that the Palestinians are eligible to be admitted as a UN member state.”

US Deputy UN Ambassador Jonathan Cohen told the General Assembly that the US plans to remind the UN that the Palestinians have not achieved statehood.

His words were consistent with the United States position that recognition of Palestinian statehood should occur only after an agreement is reached that ends the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Cohen spoke against Palestinian attempts to unilaterally gain statehood recognition at the UN, including through its quest to chair the G77.

“The United States has long opposed enhancements of Palestinian status at the United Nations. We voted against the General Assembly’s resolution designating the Palestinian delegation as a nonmember observer state. We have consistently and formally objected to Palestinian accession to treaties to which we are a party. That is because, as we said, the United States does not recognize that there is a Palestinian state, and we do not consider ourselves to be in a treaty relationship with the ‘State of Palestine,’” Cohen said.

“For decades, the United States has been committed to achieving a comprehensive end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We have been clear that only through direct negotiations between the parties can the Israelis and Palestinians achieve the peace that they both deserve,” Cohen said.

“That remains our goal today. We cannot support efforts by the Palestinians to enhance their status outside of direct negotiations,” Cohen said.

An Israeli representative spoke against the move and warned that placing the Palestinians at the head of the group exploited an organization that was otherwise designed to advance the agenda of developing nations.

“The established rules of procedure of the UN are important. Constant attempts to keep changing the rules of procedure to accommodate one observer delegation in a manner that would not be tolerated for any of the member states only weakens this institution,” Israel said.

Germany, which supported the measure, clarified that its support for a Palestinian chairman for the G77 was not a statement of its support for UN recognition of Palestinian statehood.

“Our vote today should not be construed as a vote in recognition of the state of Palestine. It should not be construed as a statement on its status in the United Nations,” Germany said.

The Netherlands and the United Kingdom issued similar statements.

“This vote today represents multilateralism at its best,” The Palestinian Authority Ambassador Riyad Mansour, said.

The UN considers the Palestinians to be a nonmember state but grants it many of the same privileges that it would award a member state

The G77 has recognized Palestine as a member state since 1976. However, a special vote was needed to place it at the head of the group, because of Palestine’s nonmember status.

The General Assembly placement on Tuesday afternoon in New York of Palestine at the head of the largest intergovernmental organization of developing countries enhances Palestinian stature at the UN, even though it does not imply any change in status.

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