UNESCO grants Palestinians full membership
(Reuters) -- by John Irish --
The United Nations' cultural agency granted the Palestinians full membership on Monday, a step forward in their long-running efforts to achieve recognition before the world as an independent state.
The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) became the first U.N. agency to welcome the Palestinians as a full member since President Mahmoud Abbas applied for full membership of the United Nations on September 23.
A huge cheer erupted in UNESCO's General Assembly after the vote, which marks a symbolic victory for Palestinians in the complex diplomacy that surrounds their collective status and relations with foreign powers.
"Today's victory at UNESCO is the beginning of a road that is difficult, but will lead to the freedom of our land and people from occupation," Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said. "Palestine has the right to a place on the map."
Israel called the vote a "tragedy" and the decision damaged relations between UNESCO and the United States, an ally of Israel that provides about 22 percent of the body's funding, or some $70 million.
Legislation stipulates that the U.S. can cut off funding to any United Nations agency that accepts Palestinians as a member.
The White House said the vote was "premature" and would not aid peace and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said UNESCO would suffer.
"Today's vote to grant Palestinian membership in UNESCO is no substitute for direct negotiations, but it is deeply damaging to UNESCO," said Ambassador Susan Rice.
UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova, who previously pleaded for Washington not to withdraw support, told delegates funding may be jeopardized.
"I believe it is the responsibility of all of us to make sure that UNESCO does not suffer unduly... We need each and every member of this organization to be fully engaged," she added.
The Palestinians got backing from two thirds of UNESCO's members to become its 195th member. Of 173 countries that voted from a possible 185, 107 voted in favor, 14 voted against, 52 abstained and 12 were absent. Abstentions did not count toward the final tally.
The Palestinians went to UNESCO after making a bid for recognition of the over-arching United Nations system in September before the U.N. Security Council, which has moved the issue to a committee where it is likely to run into a veto from the United States.
"This vote is not directed against anyone, but represents support for freedom and justice," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a statement to the official news agency WAFA.
"This vote is for the sake of peace and represents international consensus on support for the legitimate Palestinian national rights of our people, the foremost of which is the establishment of its independent state."
But the breakdown of the vote reflected deep divergences in international views on Palestinian statehood.
The United States, Canada, Germany and Holland voted against Palestinian membership. Brazil, Russia, China, India, South Africa and France voted in favor. Britain and Italy abstained.
For the European Union, which has stumbled in recent efforts to develop a common foreign policy, the UNESCO vote highlighted persistent rifts with some member states voting for and some against Palestinian membership.
Austrian UNESCO ambassador Ursula Plassnik, whose country voted in favor, said she regretted that the EU had failed to arrive at a common position on Palestinian membership.
France, which previously abstained from a vote on the subject of Palestinian membership in UNESCO, broke with precedent to vote in favor on Monday.
"Since it has been raised today, we must assume our responsibilities and respond to the substance of the issue ... On the substance, France says "yes"- Palestine has the right to become a member of UNESCO," said Hubert de Canson, France's representative at UNESCO...MORE...LINK
Related: Zionist-occupied Obama admin quickly cuts funding for UNESCO following Palestinian admittance vote
U.S. cuts funding for UNESCO with Palestinans aboard
(by The Associated Press) --
PARIS — The Obama administration cut off funding for the UN cultural agency on Monday, after its member countries defied an American warning and approved a Palestinian bid for full membership.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the vote triggered a long-standing congressional restriction on funding to UN bodies that recognize Palestine as a state before an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is reached. She said the U.S. as a result would refrain from making a $60 million payment it planned to deliver in November.
"Today's vote by the member states of UNESCO to admit Palestine as a member is regrettable, premature, and undermines our shared goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East," Nuland told reporters. "The United States remains steadfast in its support for the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state, but such a state can only be realized through direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians."
The U.S. will maintain its membership and participation in the body, Nuland said, though it was not immediately clear how that would work if it was no longer paying its share of the costs...MORE...LINK