Riyad al-Maliki, the foreign minister of the Palestinian Authority (PA), says Palestinians will not accept anything less than full UN membership and do not want an upgrade to an observer state in the world body.
Maliki told journalists in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, that the Palestinians could have won observer state status long ago and were not interested in it now. They currently hold the status of observer entity.
“We do not want, after all of these struggles, sacrifices, and efforts by the entire Palestinian people, to accept an observer state in the United Nations. We will not accept less than [what] we deserve: a full member state,” he said.
Analysts said if the Palestinian leadership did not seek enhanced status if it failed to gain full membership, it would
mark a retreat.
But they said Maliki’s remarks may not reflect the path Mahmoud Abbas, the PA president, may take.
“This reads like a tactical move,” said George Giacaman, a political analyst. “It could be directed towards the Americans, the Israelis, to show flexibility, but I would not view it as a final position.”
Abbas applied for full UN membership for the state of Palestine on September 23. The request is now being considered by the Security Council, but the US has already pledged to veto it in the 15-nation body if it is brought to a vote.
The US Congress has frozen about $200m in aid to the PA over its statehood quest.
Israel this week froze duties it collects on behalf of the PA in response to its admission to the UN cultural agency UNESCO.
Maliki said for now the Palestinians would not seek to join more UN agencies as a full member.
“At this moment, we are not concerned with applying for membership for Palestine in the rest of the international organisations,” he said.
UNESCO’s vote in favour of Palestinian membership triggered an automatic cut off in US funding to the agency under US law.
The idea of the Palestinians joining more international agencies had raised the prospect of bodies such as the World Health Organisation also losing their US funding.
“The official Palestinian position is to concentrate only on the request for membership which we presented to the United Nations,” Maliki said.
Security Council debate
A council resolution for full UN membership needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes to pass.
Many UN diplomats believe the Palestinians would get only eight votes, and a meeting of council ambassadors on Thursday to review the issue produced no surprises, the envoys said
UN diplomats said Russia, China, Brazil, India, Lebanon and South Africa supported the Palestinian bid, the US opposed it, and Britain, France and Colombia said they would abstain if there were a vote.
Gabon and Nigeria, expected to support the Palestinians, and Germany and Portugal, expected to abstain, did not spell out their positions and Bosnia did not speak.
Bosnia is also thought likely to abstain because its Muslim, Serb and Croat collective presidency cannot agree.
Palestinian UN representative Riyad Mansour told reporters nations were still deciding positions. He declined to say whether the Palestinians would push for a vote.
The Palestinians will have to make that decision after the council concludes its review of the application next week with a report expected to say it cannot reach consensus.
An upgrade to “non-member state”, an idea also favoured by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, could be won through a resolution in the General Assembly, where the Palestinians would probably glean the support that allowed them into UNESCO.
They would then enjoy a status equal to the Vatican, and secure the title of a state.
Addressing what would happen if they fail in their bid for full UN membership, Maliki said: “We will repeat this experiment a second time, a third time and a fourth time until we reach that membership.”