Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has announced that the Palestinian delegation will seek to raise its’ status at next week’s United Nations General Assembly.
Erekat yesterday outlined plans for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to make a speech at next week’s gathering in New York, which would lay the groundwork for a subsequent vote to change the status of the Palestinian delegation to the UN from non-member ‘observer entity’ to non-member ‘observer state’. Erekat suggested that such an implication of statehood would be the basis of a further resolution backing a Palestinian state within pre-1967 borders and pave the way to membership of other international bodies, such as the International Criminal Court.
Last year, the Palestinians failed in a bid for membership of the UN as a full member state, which would have required the agreement of the UN Security Council. An upgrade to non-member ‘observer status’ though, would need the approval of only the UN General Assembly, which is highly likely. Erekat said that he was confident of winning 150-170 of the 193 votes at the General Assembly.
Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office has warned that such a move by the Palestinians would be a ‘blow to the peace process.’ Spokesman for Prime Minister Netanyahu, Mark Regev emphasized the centrality of direct talks to the peace process, saying that ‘The Palestinians committed themselves to resolving all outstanding issues in negotiations, and such a unilateral action would be viewed as a violation.’
Regev added that Palestinian complaints over the stalled peace process as justification for an upgrade in status at the UN was ‘the ultimate in disingenuous behaviour’ given that ‘they are responsible for the fact that the process has not moved ahead more energetically.’
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also expressed concern over unilateral Palestinian steps. While reiterating his support for ‘the aspiration of the Palestinian people to join the United Nations’, he added that ‘all these processes should come out as a result of a negotiated settlement of the Middle East peace process, particularly the two-state formula, where Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in peace and security.’