Palestine has won a first diplomatic victory in its quest for statehood as UNESCO’s executive committee backed its bid to become a member, a move deemed “inexplicable” by the United States.
Palestine’s Arab allies braved intense US and French diplomatic pressure to bring the motion before the committee’s member states, which passed it by 40 votes in favour to four against, with 14 abstentions.
The Palestinian bid will now be submitted to the general assembly of the UN cultural body at the end of the month for final approval.
The United States urged all delegates to vote “no” at the general assembly.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the UNESCO decision was “confusing” as the UN Security Council weighs a request from the Palestinians for full UN membership — which the United States opposes.
Speaking to reporters during a trip to the Dominican Republic she said: “I found quite confusing and somehow inexplicable that you would have organs of the United Nations making decisions about statehood or statehood status while the issue has been presented to the United Nations.”
Clinton insisted that “the decision about status must be made in the United Nations and not in auxiliary groups.”
US Republican lawmaker Kay Granger, who chairs the key subcommittee that disburses US monies for diplomatic purposes said in a statement that she “will advocate for all funding to be cut off”, if UNESCO accepted the Palestinians in as a state.
The membership request, which Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas presented to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on September 23, will likely be voted on in the coming weeks.