01 December 2012

Palestine achieves 'State' recognition at United Nations

Caribbean States vote to upgrade Palestinian UN status (below)

General Assembly

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
Sixty-seventh General Assembly
General Assembly Plenary
44th & 45th Meetings (PM & Night)


Objective to ‘Breath New Life’ into Peace Process, Says Palestinian President;

Israel’s Delegate Counters, Without Direct Negotiations, Peace Remains ‘Out of Reach’

Voting by an overwhelming majority — 138 in favour to 9 against (Canada, Czech Republic, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nauru, Panama, Palau, United States), with 41 abstentions — the General Assembly today accorded Palestine non-Member Observer State status in the United Nations.

Vote on Status of Palestine at United Nations

In favour:  Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Cyprus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Honduras, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against:  Canada, Czech Republic, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nauru, Palau, Panama, United States.

Abstain:  Albania, Andorra, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Colombia, Croatia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Estonia, Fiji, Germany, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malawi, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Poland, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Tonga, United Kingdom, Vanuatu.

Absent:  Equatorial Guinea, Kiribati, Liberia, Madagascar, Ukraine.

“The moment has arrived for the world to say clearly:  enough of aggression, settlements and occupation,” said Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, as he called on the 193-member body to “issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine”.  Indeed, following Israel’s latest aggression against the Gaza Strip, the international community now faced “the last chance” to save the long elusive two-State solution, he said, adding:  “the window of opportunity is narrowing and time is quickly running out”.

Palestine came before the Assembly because it believed in peace, and because its people were in desperate need of it, he said, speaking ahead of the vote.  Its endeavour to seek a change in status at the United Nations did not aim to terminate what remained of the long stagnant peace negotiations; instead, he said, it was aimed at trying to “breathe new life” into the process.  Support for the resolution would also send a promising message to millions of Palestinians “that justice is possible and that there is a reason to be hopeful”, he stressed.

The text upgraded Palestine’s status without prejudice to the acquired rights, privileges and role of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the United Nations as the representative of the Palestinian people, in accordance with the relevant resolutions and practice.  The Palestinian Liberation Organization was recognized as an observer entity in 1974.  By other terms of the resolution — the adoption of which coincided with the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and with the Assembly’s annual debate on the Question of Palestine — Member States echoed the “urgent need for the resumption and acceleration” of the peace negotiations.

Israel’s representative, also taking the floor before the vote, emphasized that the “one-sided” resolution did not advance peace, but instead pushed the process backward.  “There is only one route to Palestinian statehood.  There are no shortcuts.  No quick fixes,” he said.  The route to peace ran through direct negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah.  “ Israel is prepared to live in peace with a Palestinian State, but for peace to endure, Israel’s security must be protected,” he added.

He said that certain vital interests of his country, including recognition of the Jewish State and an agreement to end the conflict with Israel once and for all, did not appear in the text.  Indeed, the only way to achieve peace was through agreements that had been reached by the parties and not through United Nations resolutions.  He added that, as long as President Abbas preferred symbolism over reality, as long as he preferred to travel to New York rather than travel to Jerusalem for genuine dialogue, any hope of peace would be out of reach.

“There can be no substitute for negotiations”, agreed United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who also addressed the Assembly following the resolution’s adoption.  The decision to accord Palestine non-Member Observer State status was the prerogative of Member States, he said of the action, reiterating his belief that the Palestinians had a legitimate right to an independent State, and that Israel had the right to live in peace and security.  “I call on all those concerned to act responsibly” and intensify efforts towards reconciliation and towards a just and lasting peace, he said.
General Assembly President Vuk Jeremić said that in today’s interconnected world, “what happens between the River Jordan and the shores of the Mediterranean has become the key to the security and well-being of [all] mankind.”  Notwithstanding the efforts of some of the most courageous statesmen of the twentieth century, a negotiated comprehensive settlement that would enable Israel and Palestine to live side by side in peace and security had yet to materialize “[a]nd so we still witness […] enmity, estrangement, and mistrust — as parents continue to bury their children”.

He appealed to both sides to work for peace; to negotiate in good faith; and ultimately, to succeed in reaching a historic settlement.  “I have no doubt that history will judge this day to have been fraught with significance — but whether it will come to be looked upon as a step in the right direction on the road to peace will depend on how we bear ourselves in its wake,” he declared.

Among speakers who expressed their support for the resolution was Ahmet Davutoğlu, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkey, who said that, for 65 years, the whole world had shut its eyes to the plight of the Palestinian people.  During that time, no resolution towards a Palestinian State had been honoured.  “The reality of Palestine”, he said, “is a bleeding wound in the conscience of all humanity.”

Further, he said, “our vision for justice, international order and human rights will not be achieved until the moment we […] see the flag of the State of Palestine side by side with ours, as a full Member of the United Nations.”  The granting of non-Member Observer State status could act as a “booster” creating the long-needed momentum towards a negotiated, comprehensive solution.  Calling today’s vote a “first step”, he urged all United Nations Members to fulfil their long overdue responsibility towards the Palestinians.

“The eyes of all the children of Palestine are directed towards us”, said the representative of Sudan, who introduced the resolution.  He called on all States to contribute today “to make history” and to “pave the way for the future” by casting their votes in favour.  Doing so would be a victory both for the value of truth and for the Palestinian people themselves, he said.

However, other delegates, explaining their votes against the resolution, agreed with Israel’s representative that the text would do nothing to advance positive relations between the two parties to the conflict.  In that vein, the representative of the United States said that her delegation had voted against the “unfortunate and counterproductive” resolution as it placed further obstacles in the path to peace.

The United States felt strongly that today’s “grand pronouncements would soon fade” and that the Palestinian people would wake up tomorrow “and find out that little about their lives had changed”, save that the prospects of peace had receded.  Therefore, the United States called on both parties to renew direct negotiations, and continued to urge all parties to avoid all provocative actions in the region, in New York or elsewhere.

Also speaking prior to this morning’s action were the foreign ministers of Indonesia and Canada.

Speaking in explanation of their votes following action were delegates from France, Singapore, United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Bulgaria, Serbia, Honduras, Denmark, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Austria, Australia, New Zealand, Czech Republic, Finland, Norway, United Republic of Tanzania, South Sudan, Netherlands, Japan, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Spain, Mexico, Georgia, Jamaica, Russian Federation, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Korea, Romania, Portugal and Mauritius.

Other speakers in the debate on the Question of Palestine were the representatives of Egypt, Iran (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Djibouti (on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference), China, Kuwait, Nigeria, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Cuba, Venezuela, Malaysia, Syria, Morocco, Tunisia and Namibia.

The Head of the Delegation of the European Union also addressed the meeting.


Then and Now

Caribbean News Now

CARICOM votes to upgrade Palestinian UN status

By Ray Chickrie

Caribbean News Now contributor

NEW YORK, USA -- Caribbean Community (CARICOM) states, with the exception of The Bahamas and Barbados, voted in unison to support UN Resolution 67/19 that granted observer status to the State of Palestine at the United Nations on Thursday, which is similar to the status of the Holy See. 

Two important CARICOM states, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, broke with traditional positions and supported the Palestinian vote for observer status at the UN. In the past they never explicitly supported Palestinian statehood and have abstained on the issue. 

The United Nations voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to recognize the State of Palestine. More than two-thirds of the world body's 193 member states approved the resolution to upgrade Palestine to a non-member observer state. It passed 138-9, with 41 abstentions. Joining the United States in voting no was Canada, Czech Republic, Panama and a few other Pacific Island states. 

Five CARICOM member states, Guyana, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize and Grenada, co-sponsored the resolution. Prior to the actual vote, Belize, Grenada and Suriname added their names as co-sponsors of the resolution. 

Since 1975 Guyana has been a member of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and the first Caribbean country to recognise Palestine as a state. 

And since coming to office two years ago, Suriname’s President Desi Bouterse has solidified ties with non-aligned nations, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Arab, African and Asian bloc of the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and has been an advocate of Palestinian statehood. 

“Suriname and Guyana through CARICOM and in their recent role as chair respectively of the second and third committee have supported a united CARICOM position,” said Suriname’s Ambassador’s to the United Nations, Henry MacDonald. 

A lot of behind the scenes lobbying to have a unified CARICOM position on the Palestine upgrade resolution by Suriname and Guyana took place at CARICOM and at the UN.

Haiti, as expected, like Colombia abstained, but Paraguay’s abstention was a surprise after Paraguay had recognized the Palestinian state a few years ago. The change of government in Paraguay more recently could account for this move. 

While this UN move is merely symbolic, it will allow Palestine to join international organisations such as the International Criminal Court, where Palestine can bring charges against Israel’s occupation, and expansion of settlements in the West Bank. As well, some assert, it will give the Palestinians more leverage to negotiate with Israel. 

According to MacDonald, “The new status will also allow Palestine to get access to international financial institutions like the IMF and the World Bank.”

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