Palestinians aim to join more UN agencies

Updated: 2011-11-01 21:02


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RAMALLAH - Following the overwhelming success of gaining full membership of the state of Palestine in the United Nations' cultural agency UNESCO on Monday, officials said Tuesday that the Palestinians are preparing to gain full membership in other organizations of the United Nations.

A majority of 107 UNESCO members voted in favor of Palestine membership on Monday, while 14 members voted against and 52 abstained. Local newspapers in the Palestinian territories said " It is a great political and diplomatic victory."

Palestinians gained for the first time ever a full membership in the UN organization since Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had submitted in September 23 an official request to the UN Security Council for a full membership of the state of Palestine in the global organization.

"Winning a full membership in the UNESCO is not against anyone, it is to support justice and freedom," said Abbas in a first comment after the vote. Meanwhile, Reyad al-Malki, the Palestinian minister of foreign affairs, called it "the beginning of a long and difficult road that will lead to liberty."

The membership in the UNESCO will pave the way for the Palestinians to apply to other UN organizations and eventually gain a full membership, and will also help the Palestinians to gain a recognition of the International Heritage Center and register sites in the occupied territories.

Palestinian officials said they have about 20 files related to holy sites in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel, including one of the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem. Ghassan al- Khatib, spokesman of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) said "UNESCO membership has two benefits."

"The first is the huge international support the Palestinians gained after becoming a UNESCO member and second is that the Palestinians from now and then would be able to protest and defend their cultural and historic sites, places and cities," said al- Khatib.

Al-Khatib meanwhile asserted that the Palestinians will soon carry out practical steps towards gaining the membership in the various UN organizations, adding that "being a member in the other international organizations would hurry up gaining the legitimate Palestinian rights."

Hana Amira, an official in Palestine Liberation Organization, told Voice of Palestine Radio that the membership in the UNESCO "would empower the Palestinian position in confronting Israel, mainly in the part related to the dispute on east Jerusalem."

"The Palestinian efforts would focus in the future on providing the UNESCO with laws and plans related to reinforcing the legitimate Palestinian right in the eastern part of the holy city of Jerusalem," said Amira.

PNA minister of health Fathi Abu Mghalli revealed that the Palestinians are working on gaining the full membership in the World Health Organization, while Minister of Economy Hassan Abu Lebda said the PNA will also apply to gain membership in the World Trade Organization.

Israel has earlier announced that it strongly opposes offering the Palestinian the full membership in the UNESCO. Israel officials said Israel would reevaluate its future ties with the organization, adding that "this would never turn the PNA into an actual state, but it would obstruct the peace talks."

The direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been stalled for more than a year after Israel refused a Palestinian request to halt settlement building in the territories it had occupied in 1967. The Palestinians decided to go to the UN and apply for full membership in response to Israel's rejection to their request.