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UNGA backs Palestinian bid for membership

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UNITED NATIONS: In a historic vote, the UN General Assembly decisively approved a resolution on Friday, granting Palestine an enhanced presence within the world body, bolstering its rights and privileges.

The resolution passed with an overwhelming majority of 143 countries in favour, signalling a resounding international endorsement.

Nine countries, led by the United States, voted against the resolution. Twenty-five countries, including Britain, abstained.

US Ambassador Robert Wood said Washington’s negative vote does not reflect its opposition to Palestinian statehood.

“We have been very clear that we support it and seek to advance it meaningfully. Instead, it is an acknowledgement that statehood will come from a process that involves direct negotiations between the parties,” he said.

Russia’s Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia criticised the US, saying the resolution was complicated because it attempted to advance Palestinian membership as far as possible, without provoking another veto from Washington on full membership. He said Palestine deserves nothing less than a full membership.

Munir Akram, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN, said there would come a day when Israel would be held accountable for the crimes committed against Palestinians, especially in Gaza.

He clarified that this resolution pertained specifically to Palestine and would not impact the status of other states, such as Taiwan, which was China’s primary concern.

The insults hurled today are “the arrogance of the aggressor”, reflecting the impunity of the occupier, he said, expressing the hope that the international community would appropriately respond.

The adoption upgrades the rights of the state of Palestine within the world body, but not the right to vote or put forward its candidature to organs such as the Security Council or the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Granting Palestinian membership requires a recommendation from the Security Council. At the same time, the Assembly determines that the state of Palestine is qualified for such status and recommends that the Security Council “reconsider the matter favourably”.

Palestine is now also eligible for election as officers in some of the General Assembly’s committees, marking a significant step towards its fuller integration into the UN framework.

None of the upgrades in status will take effect until the new session of the Assembly opens on Sept 10.

Resolution’s benefits

The resolution’s adoption will determine the widespread support for Palestine to be accorded full UN membership. The immediate benefits include being seated among member states in alphabetical order, making statements on behalf of a group, submitting proposals and amendments and introducing them, co-sponsor proposals and amendments, proposing items to be included in the provisional agenda of the regular or special sessions, and the right to request the inclusion of supplementary or additional items in the agenda of regular or special sessions.

Other benefits include the right of members of the delegation of the state of Palestine to be elected as officers in the plenary and the main committees of the General Assembly, full and effective participation in United Nations conferences, international conferences and meetings convened under the auspices of the General Assembly or, as appropriate, under the auspices of other organs of the United Nations.

Appeal for political courage

In a related development, UN Secretary General António Guterres used a world forum in Nairobi to appeal again for Israeli and Hamas leaders “to demonstrate political courage and spare no effort” in reaching an agreement to end the war in Gaza and free all hostages.

More than a million Palestinians are crowded in the Rafah enclave of southern Gaza as Israeli military operations continue throughout the area. Roughly 100,000 people have left and are moving north.

“A massive ground attack in Rafah would lead to an epic humanitarian disaster,” the UN chief said. “The international community must speak with one voice for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, and a massive surge in life-saving aid.”

Riyad Mansour, permanent observer of the observer state of Palestine, urged the world body to recognise Palestine because, despite the attacks and destruction, the flag of Palestine “flies high and proud” across the globe, becoming a “symbol raised by all those who believe in freedom and its just rule”.

He recounted the devastating impacts of the ongoing war in Gaza, with over 35,000 Palestinians killed, a further 80,000 injured and over two million displaced.

“No words can capture what such loss and trauma signify for Palestinians, their families, their communities and for our nation as a whole,” he said.

Gaza crossings

The UN human rights chief has pleaded with both Palestinians and Israelis to ensure Gaza’s border crossings, vital for humanitarian aid, are not jeopardised by military operations.

“I deplore all hostile acts that jeopardise the entry and distribution of critically needed humanitarian aid into Gaza,” Volker Turk said.

“The handful of land crossings into Gaza serve as lifelines for the supply of food, medicine, fuel and other necessities that must be allowed to reach the despairing and terrified population.

“I urge all parties to ensure that crossings for civilians and goods necessary for the survival of the civilian population are not placed at risk through military operations.”