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Palestine secures seat in UNESCO despite US threats

Published time: October 31, 2011 12:37
Edited time: October 31, 2011 21:43

The majority of delegates greeted news of Palestine’s accession to UNESCO with a standing ovation.

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Palestine has been granted membership of UNESCO after 107 out of 173 members in attendance voted in favor of its accession, with 14 against. Israel says it is now considering a complete break in relations with Palestine.

Two thirds of the delegates present and voting had to support the motion for it to be approved. With 52 members abstaining, Palestine needed 81 votes to be admitted.

The US, Canada, Germany and Israel were among those who voted against the Palestinian bid. Russia, China and France voted in favor. The UK was among the countries who abstained.

Washington says that the move to admit Palestine violates UNESCO’s own rules.

After Palestinians were granted membership in Unesco, the US State Department confirmed it would cut $60 million in funding for the UN’s body in November.

Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, says Israel opposes any bid by Palestine to join the UN body.

“My recommendations are clear to the limit,” Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman stated. “We need to weigh the possibility of rupture of all relations with Palestine… We can’t stand their one-sided steps time after time,”

he added.

Israel has warned that a UNESCO yes vote would harm efforts to secure a peace agreement between the two sides.

“This is a unilateral Palestinian maneuver which will bring no change on the ground but further removes the possibility for a peace agreement,” AFP quoted Lieberman as saying.

Palestine will receive full membership after signing and ratifying UNESCO’s Constitution. It is to become the organization's 195th member.

It will be the first time Palestinians have achieved full membership status of a UN body.

"This vote will erase a tiny part of the injustice done to the Palestinian people," Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki told the UNESCO meeting in Paris, after the result was announced, AFP reported.

The vote was called a month after Palestine submitted its statehood bid to the UN General Assembly. However, the Palestinian authorities say the two are not connected.

“We turned to UNESCO with a bid 22 years ago,” Palestine’s Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said in an address to the organization’s general conference in Paris.

At the same time, RT’s correspondent Daniel Bushell says “Today’s vote does bring Palestine a step closer to full membership in the UN.”

­Sabri Saidam, an advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told RT that Monday’s vote was a “rehearsal” for a “bigger battle” which ended with an “excellent victory.”

“Indeed, this has been a moral exercise, but that’s been a scenario that has been long considered all the way through as a preparatory measure for the bigger battle to come,” Saidam said. “And that battle is going to take place, and is taking place, at the Security Council. Indeed, this is a rehearsal and that rehearsal culminated with the excellent victory today.”

He said that the next step is to “convince those who have opposed the Palestinian motion” as well as the Security Council to “look to the future” and accept that the stability of the region will have to be based on justice for the Palestinians and an end to the occupation.

“Without that, the sustainability of the status quo is beyond comprehension,” Saidam declared.


UNESCO is the first organization working under the UN’s aegis to recognize Palestine’s right to statehood. A number of countries, including the United States and Israel, objected to such a move.

Earlier on Monday the US, which provides more than one fifth of UNESCO’s budget, said it would curb its donations, should Palestine be elected as a member. Israel announced a similar move.

Both countries are strong opponents of international recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state. The US, which wields a right of veto in the UN Security Council, said it would use it to block any resolution which would grant such recognition.

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