Palestine’s delegation to the United Nations has cast a ballot for the first time in a routine General Assembly vote, an act the envoy said brought his nation a step closer to full UN membership.
The chief Palestinian UN observer, Riyad Mansour, participated in the 193-nation assembly’s election of a judge for the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on Monday in which Koffi Kumelio Afande of Togo was elected to the court.
“This is a very, very special moment in the history of the struggle of the Palestinian people at the United Nations,” said Mansour.
It was the first time the Palestinians cast a vote since their UN status was upgraded last November to “non-member state” from an “entity,” like the Vatican. The vote has been perceived as a de facto recognition of Palestinian statehood.
“It’s a symbolic (step),” he said. “But it is an important one because it reflects that the international community, particularly the General Assembly, is hungry and waiting for the state of Palestine to become a full member of the United Nations.”
Mansour said he hopes the Palestinians will become full members of the United Nations soon, though the United States have not indicated it has any plan to drop its opposition to that idea.
Their current status allows them to participate in some assembly votes and join some international organisations.
The Palestinians have threatened to use their new UN status to accede to a number of international organisations and possibly sign the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
The Palestinians have not joined the ICC yet. In 2011, however, they joined UNESCO, the UN education, science and culture agency, which led Washington and Israel to cut off funding to the Paris-based organisation in protest.
Earlier this month, UNESCO suspended the voting rights of the US and Israel.
The upgrade of the Palestinians’ status last year came after an attempt to secure full UN membership failed because of US resistance in the Security Council, where Washington made clear it would use its veto power to block the Palestinian bid.
But no country has veto power in the General Assembly, which is why the Palestinians had no trouble securing status as a non-member state.