Palestinians won`t accept less than full UN seat

The Palestinians now hold the status of an observer entity at UN. Their bid for statehood has drawn fierce criticism.

Jerusalem: The Palestinians will not accept anything less than full United Nations membership and do not want an upgrade to an observer state in the world body, the foreign minister said on Thursday.

Riyad al-Malki`s remarks suggested the Palestinians would not seek such an upgrade once their bid for full state membership meets the fate widely expected for it -- failure because of opposition from the United States, among other governments.

"We do not want, after all of these struggles, sacrifices, and efforts by the entire Palestinian people, to accept an observer state in the United Nations. We will not accept less than we deserve: a full member state," he said.

The Palestinians now hold the status of an observer entity at the United Nations. Their bid for statehood recognition has drawn fierce criticism and sanctions from the United States and Israel, which in 1967 captured territory the Palestinians now seek for a state. Peace talks collapsed last year.

The US Congress has frozen some $200 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority over its statehood quest.

Israel this week froze duties it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in response to its admission to the UN cultural agency UNESCO. Malki said for now the Palestinians would not seek to join more UN agencies as a full member.

"At this moment, we are not concerned with applying for membership for Palestine in the rest of the international organizations," he told journalists in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

UNESCO`s vote in favor of Palestinian membership triggered an automatic cutoff in US funding to the agency under US law. The idea of the Palestinians joining more international agencies had raised the prospect of bodies such as the World Health Organization also losing their US funding.

"The official Palestinian position is to concentrate only on the request for membership which we presented to the United Nations," Malki said.

President Mahmoud Abbas applied for full UN membership for the state of Palestine on September 23 during the General Assembly in New York. That request is currently being considered in the Security Council.

Its fate will likely be decided on or around November 11. But the United States has already pledged to use its Security Council veto if the application is brought to a vote.

Both the United States and Israel argue that the Palestinian push in the United Nations is unilateral and an attempt to bypass peace talks, whose resumption Abbas has conditioned on an Israeli freeze of settlement activity in occupied territory.

The Palestinians, in turn, say those negotiations have failed to bring them closer to the independent state they seek in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. They say it is time to try a different approach.

Faced with the prospect of a US veto, officials in Ramallah have said the Palestinians could seek an upgrade in their status to a "non-member state" -- an idea also suggested by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Such an upgrade could be won through a resolution in the General Assembly. There, the Palestinians would likely glean the kind of support that secured their UNESCO membership.

The Palestinians would then enjoy status equal to the Vatican and secure the all-important title of a state.

Addressing what would happen if they fail in their bid for full UN membership, Malki said: "We will repeat this experiment a second time, a third time and a fourth time until we reach that membership. We will not accept less than it."

Echoing Washington, Israel said on Thursday it would also halt funding to UNESCO over the cultural agency`s decision to grant the Palestinians full membership.

Bureau Report

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