Palestinian council gets 'Partner for Democracy' status

In return for status in Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Palestinians say they willl hold "free and fair elections."

 Salim al-Zanoun, speaker of the PNC addresses PACE  311 R (photo credit: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)
Salim al-Zanoun, speaker of the PNC addresses PACE 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)
The Palestinians on Tuesday welcomed as “historic” a decision by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to grant the PLO’s parliament-in-exile, the Palestinian National Council (PNC), the status of “Partner for Democracy.”
The new status, which is reserved for parliamentarians from countries neighboring the Council of Europe, enables members of the PNC to speak before the PACE assembly and most of its committees.
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The Palestinians would also be allowed to participate in all the discussions of the Council of Europe, but would not enjoy voting privileges.
The resolution was approved by the assembly with 110 in favor, five against and 10 abstentions.
According to a statement issued by PACE, the Palestinians pledged in return to pursue the “values upheld by the Council of Europe, hold free and fair elections and work toward abolishing the death penalty, among other commitments.”
The assembly will also monitor other key issues, such as concluding negotiations for a national unity government and making the 669-member PNC a democratically- elected body.
Other issues include refraining from violence, rejecting terrorism, recognizing Israel’s right to exist and freeing IDF solider Gilad Schalit.
The assembly will review progress on these issues within two years.
In May 1964, the PNC met in Jerusalem and adopted the Palestinian National Charter and established the PLO. The PNC met again in November 1988, this time in Algiers, and unilaterally declared the independence of a Palestinian state.
Two years after the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO, the PNC met in Gaza City and voted to scrap parts of the charter that denied Israel’s right to exist. However, the charter itself was never changed.
In 1998, the PNC held another meeting in Gaza City, this time in the presence of former US president Bill Clinton, and reaffirmed the annulment of those sections denying Israel’s right to exist. Nevertheless, the charter itself has never been changed or re-drafted.
Presenting the report at Tuesday’s meeting in Strasbourg, Tiny Kox (Netherlands, UEL) said the status “created new opportunities for the Palestinian people” and could be seen as part of the Arab Spring.
In June of this year, the parliament of Morocco became the first to be granted the new status, which is intended for parliamentarians from neighboring countries who wish to benefit from the assembly’s experience of democracy-building and address common challenges.
Salim Zanoun, the speaker of the PNC, hailed the decision as “historic,” saying it constituted a “base for achieving peace in our region.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to address the Council of Europe session on Thursday, Zanoun added.
Bassam Salhi, a member of the Palestinian delegation to Strasbourg, said the decision would “enhance” the PA’s application for full membership of a Palestinian state in the UN. Salhi also said it reflected growing worldwide support for the rights of the Palestinians, first and foremost through the establishment of a Palestinian state on all the territories captured by Israel in 1967.