The Palestinians will not accept anything less than full U.N. membership and do not want an upgrade to an observer state in the world body, their 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 its widely expected fate—failure due to opposition from the United States and other governments.
Malki told journalists in Ramallah the Palestinians could have won observer state status long ago and were not interested in it now. They currently hold the status of observer entity.
“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.
Analysts said if the Palestinian leadership does not seek enhanced status after failing to gain full membership it would mark a retreat. But they said Malki’s remarks may not reflect the path Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas may take.
“This reads like a tactical move,” said George Giacaman, a political analyst. “It could be directed toward the Americans, the Israelis, to show flexibility, but I would not view it as a final position.”
The Palestinian bid for statehood recognition in the U.N. system has drawn fierce criticism and sanctions from the United States and from Israel.
The U.S. 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 U.N. cultural agency UNESCO.
Malki said for now the Palestinians would not seek to join more U.N. 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 said.
UNESCO’s vote in favor of Palestinian membership triggered an automatic cutoff in U.S. funding to the agency under U.S. 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 U.S. funding.
“The official Palestinian position is to concentrate only on the request for membership which we presented to the United Nations,” Malki said.
Abbas applied for full U.N. membership for the state of Palestine on September 23. The request is now being considered by the Security Council, but the United States has already pledged to veto it in the 15-nation body if it is brought to a vote.
The Palestinians would score a moral victory and force Washington to cast its veto if they can muster nine votes to support them in the council. A council resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes to pass.
Many U.N. diplomats believe the Palestinians would get only eight votes, and a meeting of council ambassadors on Thursday to review the issue produced no surprises, envoys said.
They said Russia, China, Brazil, India, Lebanon and South Africa supported the Palestinian bid, the United States opposed it, and Britain, France and Colombia said they would abstain if there were a vote. Gabon and Nigeria, expected to support the Palestinians, and Germany and Portugal, expected to abstain, did not spell out their positions and Bosnia did not speak.
Bosnia is also thought likely to abstain because its Muslim, Serb and Croat collective presidency cannot agree.
Palestinian U.N. representative Riyad Mansour told reporters nations were still deciding positions. He declined to say whether the Palestinians would push for a vote.
The Palestinians will have to make that decision after the council concludes its review of the application next week with a report expected to say it cannot reach consensus.
Both the United States and Israel say 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 disputed territory.
The Palestinians 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.
The last round of peace talks collapsed last year.
An upgrade to “non-member state”—an idea also favored by French President Nicolas Sarkozy—could be won through a resolution in the General Assembly, where the Palestinians would likely glean the support that got them into UNESCO.
They 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 U.N. membership, Malki said: “We will repeat this experiment a second time, a third time and a fourth time until we reach that membership.”
Additional reporting by Patrick Worsnip at the United Nations; Editing by Sophie Hares