Palestinian Delegation Granted More Rights at UN G77 Meetings: US, Australia, Israel Vote No

Australia Says Reconsidering Policy Strategy in Middle East
October 17, 2018 Updated: October 17, 2018

The United States, Australia, and Israel were the only UN member states out of 193 to vote against the Palestinian Delegation being able to chair the upcoming Group of 77 meetings on Oct. 16.

Fifteen countries, including Canada, Honduras, and Poland, abstained from voting.

The remaining 146 countries voted in favor of the action, which will grant the Palestinian Delegation some official status and additional privileges at the assembly. The Palestinians will now be procedurally acting more like a full UN member state during the 2019 G77 meetings, among developing nation member states. China will also be in attendance.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said that the UN should not have been able to grant the Palestinian Delegation “privileges” that are reserved for full-fledged members, according to a statement.

Haley added: “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.”

U.S. Deputy U.N. Ambassador Jonathan Cohen echoed Haley’s stance, saying, “We cannot support efforts by the Palestinians to enhance their status outside of direct negotiations.”

The United States mission to the United Nations (USUN) stated in a press release on Oct. 16 that “the United States does not recognize a Palestinian state.”

USUN said the United States would continue to draw attention to the fact that the Palestinian Delegation was never admitted to the assembly as a UN Member State, and that the United States “does not believe that the Palestinians are eligible to be admitted as a UN Member State.”

The Palestinian Authority (PA), which represents Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza but not Palestinian refugees and Palestinian citizens of Israel, was voted into the United Nations General Assembly in 2012 with the status of an observer—similar to that granted to the Vatican. In 2013, the PA declared itself the “State of Palestine” in a decree signed by Mahmoud Abbas. As a non-member state, the Palestinian delegation can participate in some voting at the general assembly as well as join some international bodies. However, it cannot speak in meetings until all member states have spoken, according to diplomats.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, thanked the assembly for granting his delegation the chair of the G77 plus China meetings.

“The State of Palestine will spare no effort to prove worthy of this trust in its capacity to represent and defend the interests of the Group of 77 and China, while also engaging constructively, and in an inclusive and transparent manner, with all partners, in order to advance cooperation and mutually beneficial agreements, for the common good of all humanity,” he said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had announced one day earlier on Oct. 15, that his government would be voting against the Palestinian Delegation’s bid to chair the G77 plus China meetings. At the same time, he announced that Australia was in the process of considering suggestions to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and perhaps move its embassy there from Tel Aviv.

He said that the announcement was to give Australians and others a “much clearer picture” of his government’s position on related Middle East issues before the UN vote, adding that he stressed very strongly that Australia remained committed to a two-state solution in the Middle East. “Nothing has changed when it comes to the Government’s position on this matter,” he said.

He went on to expand on his government’s position on the Palestinian resolution: “We will be voting against that resolution because we don’t believe that conferring that status, especially at this time, would add to the cause of moving parties towards the two-state solution.”

“This is what we’re seeking to achieve,” he said.

Morrison said that following suggestions made to him in May by Australia’s former ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, he was remaining “open-minded” to new approaches that could move Israel and Palestine towards a two-state solution.

“Frankly, it hasn’t been going that well. Not a lot of progress has been made. And you don’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results,” Morrison said, according to the press release.

Morrison emphasized that the Australian government “made this decision without any reference to the United States.”

“It has not come up in any discussion I have had with the President or with officials,” he said. “Australia makes its decisions about its foreign policy independently. We do so in our own national interests, consistent with our own beliefs and our own values.”

Penny Wong, opposition leader in the Australian Senate, said that in her view, the prime minister’s announcement was a “desperate” attempt to gain Jewish votes in the upcoming Wentworth by-election on Oct. 20, a claim that Morrison strongly denies. “I think the point you overlook is that Australia has no control over when votes are scheduled in the United Nations General Assembly,” he said.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Maliki, who was attending solidarity events in Indonesia at the time, said Morrison’s statement was “very sad news.”

“Australia, by doing so, is risking trade and business relations with the rest of the world, particularly the Arab world and Muslim countries,” he said at a joint news conference with Indonesia’s foreign minister. “I hope Australia would reconsider that position before taking action.”

But Morrison played down concerns from the media about Australian-Indonesian trade relations, saying that he had personally briefed the Indonesian president Joko Widodo and was “very pleased with the response.”

The Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC) reported an unnamed Indonesian official commented that the announcement could harm trade negotiations between the two countries. But Indonesia’s Trade Minister, Enggartiasto Lukita, told Reuters that there was “no such thing,” saying that it was likely the trade agreement was still on track to being signed this year.

Australian U.N. Ambassador Gillian Bird told the General Assembly, “Australia’s decision to vote no on this resolution reflects our long-standing position that Palestinian attempts to seek recognition as a state in international fora are deeply unhelpful to efforts towards a two-state solution.”

Israel’s UN deputy ambassador Noa Furman said that the vote had in effect given the Palestinian Delegation more rights than is necessary for it to chair the G77 plus China meetings. Furman said the resolution “clearly weakens and undermines the UN” and accused Ramallah, the Palestinian city in the West Bank, of a “pattern of manipulative behavior.”

The G77 was founded in 1964, with its member state nations being home to about 80 percent of the world’s population. Included are countries like South Africa, Cuba, Bosnia, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia, reported The Times of Israel.

With reporting by Reuters and The Associated Press

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