Palestinians win Unesco seat

Palestinians win Unesco seat

US likely to cut funding to UN cultural body after it grants full membership

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki speaks at Unesco’s 36th General Conference in Paris on Monday. AP

Unesco is the first UN agency the Palestinians have joined as a full member since President Mahmoud Abbas applied for full membership of the United Nations on September 23.

The United States, Canada, Germany and Holland voted against Palestinian membership. Brazil, Russia, China, India, South Africa and France voted in favour. Britain and Italy abstained.

Washington is likely to cut funding to Unesco over the vote. “The action today will complicate our ability to support Unesco,” David T Killion, US ambassador to Unesco, told journalists after the vote.

“The US has been clear for the need of a two-state resolution, but the only path is through direct negotiations and there are no shortcuts, and initiatives like today are counterproductive.”

Divisions

The vote highlighted divisions over foreign policy within the European Union, some of whose 27 members voted for and some against Palestinian membership.

Austrian Unesco ambassador Ursula Plassnik, whose country voted in favour, said she regretted the European Union could not arrive at a common position on the Palestinian issue.

The Palestinians obtained backing from two thirds of Unesco’s members to become the 195th member of Unesco, with status as “an observer entity”. Of 173 countries that voted from a possible 185, 107 voted in favor, 14 voted against, 52 abstained and 12 were absent.

Forty representatives of the 58-member board has voted in favor of putting the matter to a vote earlier this month, with four — the United States, Germany, Romania and Latvia — voting against and 14 abstaining.

Admission will be seen by the Palestinians as a moral victory in their bid for full UN membership but could be costly for Unesco.

Israel called the vote a “tragedy”. “This resolution is a tragedy for Unesco... Unesco deals in science and not science fiction and nevertheless (Unesco) adopted the science fiction reality,” said Nimrod Barkan, Israel’s ambassador to Unesco.

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