The global community must band together to combat terrorism, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday as he took over the chairmanship of the United Nations Group of 77 and China, the organization’s largest bloc of member states.
He broke the proceedings at UN headquarters in New York to condemn terrorism after hearing during the meeting that gunmen blasted their way into a hotel and office complex in the Kenyan capital on Tuesday, killing at least seven.
The attack occurred as Abbas was in the middle of leading his meeting as chairman of the Group of 77 in New York.
“Terrorism takes place worldwide on a daily basis. It is an epidemic and I therefore call on all countries of the world to cooperate, to put an end to terrorism, to uproot it,” Abbas said.
“The state of Palestine has adopted 83 protocols with 83 countries throughout the world to put an end to this scourge and to fight against terrorism, and I call on all states to work with us to combat terrorism,” he said.
But he made no mention of Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis, nor did he take responsibility for them. Israel has taken Abbas to task for his government’s continued payment of terrorists and their family members.
After the meeting, Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said that while Abbas claims he will advance the work of developing nations, the Palestinian Authority “pays terrorists’ salaries from its budget that should be used for its infrastructure and development.”
“This will not help the Palestinian people and will be an abuse of the G77’s goals,” he said.
For the Palestinians, Tuesday’s G77 handover ceremony is one more small step toward broader international recognition of statehood. Abbas was received with loud applause and smiles. Officials at the meeting repeatedly dropped the phrase “state of Palestine” often.
Palestinian officials said that the “State of Palestine’s” presidency of the G77 and China was a “huge and historic achievement” for the Palestinians. They also said that the move would pave the way for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.
PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told CBS that the Palestinians intended to push forward with its bid for UN membership, even though the US would likely veto the move at the Security Council. The 15-member UNSC must approve UN membership bids.
The PA is consulting with the UN Security Council members. “The moment we conclude the process, we will present the application.”
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said that the Palestinians’ chairmanship of the group, which represents 134 nations, was a “historic step that was made by the sacrifices of our people and their long struggle for freedom.”
The Palestinians, he said, “are accepting this tremendous challenge and unique international status with an immense sense of responsibility, as well as with honor and pride.”
Erekat said that during its presidency, “Palestine will work to support all member states toward promoting a just and effective international order.” The move, he added, “signifies the recognition of the international community of Palestinian statehood and our right to self-determination. Despite the reality under Israel’s military occupation, Palestine can play a significant role within the global system. The Palestinian people have a tremendous potential to share with the rest of the international community. We look forward to working in partnership with the G77 members to advance freedom and equality towards a more just world.”
At the meeting, Abbas called for a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with east Jerusalem as its capital.
He briefly lashed out at Israel on Twitter, stating that its continued “colonization and occupation of the State of #Palestine undermines our development & capacity for cooperation and coordination and obstructs cohesive future development for all peoples of the region.”
The G77’s battle against colonialism and foreign occupation must also include the Palestinians, he said.
“Palestine cannot be an exception. We also suffer under the yolk of foreign occupation,” he said. But Abbas focused the bulk of his remarks on setting goals for the group, including climate change and ending child labor.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry, UN General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also spoke at the event.
Several Hamas-affiliated websites on Tuesday claimed that 80 civil society institutions in the Gaza Strip sent a letter to the Group 77 and China, in which they said that Abbas was not authorized to represent or speak on behalf of the Palestinians because his four-year-term in office had expired in 2009.
The letter said that according to Article 36 of the Palestinian Basic Law and its amendments, which were approved by Abbas in 2005, the PA president has lost his constitutional legitimacy since 2009.
“He is continuing to assume the office of the president 10 years after his term in office expired, in violation of the Palestinian Basic Law,” the organizations reportedly wrote in their letter.
The reports did not mention the names of the civil societies that are reported to have sent the letter.
According to the letter, Abbas’s disregard for the Palestinian Basic Law has resulted in the “collapse of the Palestinian political infrastructure, which is headed by the Palestinian Authority.”
Abbas’s actions, the letter said, have deepened divisions among the Palestinians and resulted in the separation of the West Bank from the Gaza Strip. It also took Abbas to task for his recent decision to dissolve the Palestinian parliament – a decision that has been rejected by Hamas and other Palestinian factions as illegal.
Abbas’s disregard for the law has also led to a major setback to public freedoms in the PA-controlled areas in the West Bank, the letter charged, accusing the PA security forces of cracking down on university lecturers and students, lawyers, physicians, engineers, journalists and human rights activists.
The letter also criticized Abbas for imposing sanctions on the Gaza Strip that have raised the rate of unemployment there to 46% and the rate of poverty to 65%.
According to the report, the organizations called on members of the G77 and China to withdraw their recognition of Abbas as “President of the State of Palestine.”
The G77 has recognized Palestine as a member state since 1976. But the UN had to upgrade the Palestinian status at the UN so that it could chair the group of developing countries.
Palestine is not a member state of the UN, but the UN has awarded it de facto membership by considering it a non-member state.
In October, the UN General Assembly held a special vote to temporarily elevate the Palestinians’ status at the UN, so that it could take over the rotating chairmanship of the G77 for 2019.Herb Keinon and Reuters contributed to this report.
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