The executive committee of the United Nations cultural organization UNESCO on Wednesday recommended that the world body accept Palestine as a full member with the rights of a state.
UNESCO’s member states voted by 40 votes in favor to four against − with 14 abstentions − to approve the Palestinian bid, which will now be submitted to the UNESCO general assembly at the end of the month for approval, AFP reported.
After winning partnership status from the Council of Europe, European Union’s main human rights body, the Palestinian Authority has been looking at alternative institutions that may recognize their statehood.
The UNESCO vote will put pressure on the United Nations Security Council which received a statehood bid from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last month, in a campaign triggered by a breakdown of peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel.
The Palestinians have had observer status at UNESCO since 1974. In order to gain full membership, so-called “states” that are not members of the United Nations may be admitted to UNESCO with a two-thirds majority of the General Conference.
But it remains unclear whether Palestine would need to be a recognized state for its UNESCO bid to succeed.
This United Nations request, which Abbas presented to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on September 23, is being studied by the Security Council, which is expected to vote in the coming weeks.
U.S. opposes UNESCO Palestine support
The United States wields a veto on the Security Council, and has said it will veto any statehood bid before Palestine comes to an agreement with U.S. ally Israel over its longstanding territorial standoff.
But no power has a veto on the UNESCO committee, and Washington’s “no” vote in Paris was not enough to derail the bid. Palestinian leaders have said they are under enormous diplomatic pressure to abandon their candidacy.
Earlier in the day France, which abstained on the motion, said “it was not the time” for Palestine to pursue UNESCO backing, calling instead for a return to talks with Israel on a final peace settlement, AFP reported.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority’s move at UNESCO has sparked anger in the United States with the chairman of the foreign affairs committee at the U.S. House of Representatives, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, calling for a cut-off of U.S. funding to UNESCO if the Palestinian request is approved.
“Feeling that their efforts at the U.N. Security Council will fail, the Palestinian leadership is shopping around the U.N. system for recognition,” Ros-Lehtinen told Reuters.
“This attempt to rig the process needs to be stopped dead in its tracks. Our contributions are our strongest leverage at the U.N., and should be used to stand up for our interests and allies and stop this dangerous Palestinian scheme.”
The U.S. called on UNESCO members to vote against the cultural body accepting Palestine as a member with the rights of a state.
“The United States urges all delegations to join the United States in voting ‘no’ on this resolution,” David Killion, U.S. ambassador to Paris-based UNESCO, said in a statement to AFP.