Uncertainty surrounds UN vote on Palestine's membership as US lobbies against it

Ahram Online , AFP , Thursday 18 Apr 2024

The Security Council vote on Palestine's bid to become a full member state of the United Nations is expected to take place Thursday or Friday, diplomats said, as discussions continued.

Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman Safadi (L) speaks, flanked by Ziad Abu Amr, Special Representative of the Palestinian president, during a United Nations Security Council meeting at UN headquarters in New York, April 2024. AFP


Several diplomatic sources had told AFP earlier that the vote would take place on Thursday, but the situation has since changed with some member states asking for a Friday vote.

"It's still in the air," Slovenian Ambassador to the UN Samuel Zbogar told journalists.

"The vote is tomorrow at 3:00 o'clock. I'm sure. If you don't believe me, you will see it tomorrow," said Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour.

Malta's diplomatic mission, which holds the presidency of the Security Council in April, has yet to confirm a schedule.

"The Americans are exerting strong pressure on Malta to postpone the vote until tomorrow, Friday," Arab sources at the UN told Ahram Online. 

"We are exerting pressure in return and insisting that the vote remains scheduled for Thursday at 3:00 pm, New York time."

"We have warned Malta that we will request a procedural vote in the council on the timing of the vote if such a change occurs," the sources added.

Nonetheless, the Palestinian initiative appears doomed to fail due to opposition from the US.

Washington is lobbying nations to reject Palestine’s membership, hoping to avoid an overt veto.

The lobbying effort was revealed in copies of unclassified State Department cables obtained by The Intercept. 

"The diplomatic cables detail pressure being applied to members of the Security Council, including Malta," The Intercept reported.

Ecuador in particular is being asked to lobby Malta and other nations, including France, to oppose UN recognition, it added.

While clarifying that US President Joe Biden has worked to support “Palestinian aspirations for statehood” within the context “of a comprehensive peace that would resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” a diplomatic cable dated 12 April details US talking points against a UN vote for Palestinian statehood.

The cable says that Security Council members must be persuaded to reject any proposal for Palestinian statehood — and thereby its recognition as a sovereign nation — before the council’s open debate.

A second cable, also obtained by The Intercept, and dated 13 April sent from the US Embassy in Quito, Ecuador, relays Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Gabriela Sommerfeld’s agreement with the United States that Palestine should not be recognized for statehood.

In cooperation with the US, according to the cable, Sommerfeld instructed Ecuador’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations José De La Gasca to lobby Japan, Korea, and Malta (all rotating members of the Security Council) to reject the proposal.

Lobbying of permanent member France is also mentioned.

Sommerfeld agreed, according to the cable, that “It was important any proposed resolution fail to achieve the necessary votes without a US veto.”

The cable says, “Ecuador would not want to appear isolated (alone with the US) in its rejection of a ‘Palestine’ resolution (particularly at a time when the most UN member states are criticizing Ecuador over its 5 April incursion into Mexico’s embassy in Quito).”

The Palestinians, who have had observer status at the world body since 2012, have lobbied for years to gain full membership, which would amount to recognition of Palestinian statehood.

Any request to become a UN member state must first pass through the Security Council -- where Israel's ally the US wields a veto -- and then be endorsed by the General Assembly.

In light of Israel's war on Gaza, Palestinians revived a 2011 UN membership application last week, prompting the Security Council to launch a formal review process.

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