Palestinians’ statehood dream hits Bosnia snag
GENEVA / SARAJEVO
Permanent delegate of the US to UNESCO David Killion (C) reacts as delegates vote on the Palestinian membership during a session of UNESCO’s 36th General Conference in Paris. ‘Now we are studying when we are going to move for full membership on the other UN agencies,’ Palestinian envoy at the UN said. AP photo
The Palestinians’ top envoy in Geneva has said he believes that joining the U.N. agency for culture, education (UNESCO) and science will “open the door” to joining 16 other U.N. agencies within weeks.
Ibrahim Khraishi, the Palestinian envoy at the U.N. in Geneva, said Palestinian diplomats were now planning to capitalize on Oct. 31’s landslide vote to allow Palestine into UNESCO by preparing papers to join 16 other U.N. agencies. He said yesterday that the UNESCO vote sets a “precedent” for allowing such broad memberships.
Israeli Ambassador Nimrod Barkan said the vote, while symbolic, could have a knock-on effect: “There is potential for a cascading effect of this resolution on many other U.N. agencies and in New York.” The Palestinians could now seek full membership in other U.N. organizations like the World Intellectual Property Organization, the World Health Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization or the International Atomic Energy Agency. Such moves would place the United States in an increasing diplomatic bind as in the 1990s it banned the financing of any U.N. organization that accepts Palestine as a full member.
After the decision, the U.S. cut its funding for UNESCO. “We were to have made a $60 million payment to UNESCO in November and we will not be making that payment,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters. Nuland said the Palestinian admission “triggers longstanding (U.S.) legislative restrictions that will compel the United States to refrain from making contributions to UNESCO.” The United States, Israel’s top ally, in the 1990s banned the financing of any UN organization that accepts Palestine as a full member. The United States provides about 22 percent of UNESCO’s annual budget.
Though Palestine was triumphant in its UNESCO membership bid, its statehood bid will likely to face a major blow. On Oct. 31 a Bosnian presidential adviser said the country would be forced to abstain in the Security Council vote on Palestinian statehood. Palestinian officials have said they already have eight votes, and had counted heavily on Bosnia to give them the ninth. The United States has promised to veto the measure in any case. But the Palestinians had hoped to win enough support to trigger the veto, which would have embarrassed the U.S. by forcing it to go against the will of the international community.
Dzenan Selimbegovic, an adviser to Bosnia’s three-member presidency, said Oct. 31 that because the trio still disagrees on the issue, there is no official stand and the chance of someone changing his mind is “theoretical,” the Associated Press reported. “Officially the presidency has no position and if there is no position then the Bosnian ambassador to the U.N. has no position,” he said. Selimbegovic said the presidency would be left with no choice other than to abstain.
Additional reporting from an AFP story from Washington was used in this story.