After UNESCO win, Palestinians hit brakes on further memberships

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REPORTING FROM RAMALLAH, WEST BANK -- Palestinian officials said Thursday that after obtaining membership to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization this week, they will concentrate on gaining full U.N. membership and not seek to join any other U.N. agency.

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki said in Ramallah that President Mahmoud Abbas has given instructions not to submit any new applications for membership in U.N. agencies and instead to focus attention and effort on getting the full U.N. membership.


Malki said applications already submitted to U.N. bodies, such as that for the World Trade Organization, will not be withdrawn or frozen.

Abbas had officially submitted on Sept. 23 an application for full U.N. membership, which Malki said had nothing to do with the application for UNESCO started 22 years ago.

The Palestinians’ UNESCO membership, won in a vote by the world body Monday, caused the U.S. to stop funding the international organization. U.S. law bars Washington from giving money to any U.N. body that grants state status to the Palestinian territories.

Israel’s measures against the Palestinian Authority after the UNESCO vote included accelerating settlement construction and freezing tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

Malki insisted that the reason for not pursing more memberships had nothing to do with U.S. or Israeli threats.

“We never felt responsible for the blackmail by the U.S. to cut UNESCO funds,” he said. “We should not get the blame; the U.S. should be blamed.”

Malki said that focusing on full U.N. membership made sense because success would bring many benefits.

“If we succeed, membership in all other organizations will automatically follow,’ he said. ‘At this time, we are not interested in asking for becoming a member in the other U.N. agencies.”

The U.N. Security Council is expected to discuss a report on the Palestinian application Nov. 11, but Malki would not confirm whether a vote will be cast on the same day.

If the Palestinians’ effort for full membership in the U.N. fails, he said, they will continue to try until they succeed.


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-- Maher Abukhater