Fast-Track to a Palestinian State?

By Casey L. Coombs

Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the UN, tells Diplomatic Courier's Casey L. Coombs that steps are already being taken to expedite the creation of a Palestinian state.

Casey L. Coombs: As of today, can you sum up where Palestine's UN statehood bid stands?

Riyad Mansour: The admissions committee in the Security Council had eight meetings deliberating our application for admission and it did submit a report to the president of the Security Council.

It more or less described the content of the meetings, in which one can say there has been a majority of members supporting our admission bid. One can say also a country with a veto power was not in favor of that. They told us that in private meetings and openly.

A number of countries, while they were supportive of our right to be admitted, said they felt that the timing was not appropriate now. As a result, the admissions committee in its report concluded that they were not in agreement to submit a recommendation to the Security Council with regard to our application for membership.

So that's the status in the Security Council. And our leadership, in consultation with the Arab leadership and friends, is studying all these elements in the Security Council and discussing steps to be taken as we move forward.

But let me just also say that the fact that we've submitted our application for admission is a historic development that led to many things. One, it allowed for us to become a full member as a state in UNESCO. This is a significant step in the direction of acquiring what belongs to us as a natural right, historic right and a legal right of joining the community of nations as a member state. It means that in the UN system, the state of Palestine is a reality.

That doesn't mean a state member of the United Nations. But the state of Palestine, applying what is known as the Vienna Formula in international relations, must now be dealt with in the UN system as a state, but not necessarily as a member state.

For example, to be a member state in the General Assembly and in the UN system, it means that you have to submit your application as we did to the SG [Secretary General], and he then passes it to the Security Council, which then submits a positive recommendation in a resolution to the General Assembly to approve with a two-thirds majority present and voting. If you pass all these steps, you become a state member of the United Nations.

CLC: Full statehood?

RM: Yes, a state member of the United Nations. But what happened at UNESCO means that the United Nations is accepting Palestine as a state, but not yet as a member state. A member state will be decided through this mechanism where we are now in the Security Council and then on to the General Assembly if we receive a recommendation.

CLC: Has a next step been at least tentatively decided, whether you are leaning toward the Security Council admissions process for full statehood that you just described or leaning toward the General Assembly process which would give Palestine partial statehood or observer state status?

RM: Well, you see that we have many options before us: In the Security Council, there's the option of working with members, especially those who are not convinced yet to go along with a recommendation, or to go with the option of somebody to submit a draft resolution recommending the state of Palestine by the Security Council for admission. We need to weigh each one and its chance of success.

There's also the option of going to the General Assembly and having a resolution that would recognize the state of Palestine and would ask the Security Council to look at the application positively. Until Palestine is to be recommended for full membership, however, the General Assembly would upgrade the membership to observer state like the Vatican or Switzerland. And there are options of joining other agencies, and there are many of these agencies that are all available to us for admission. These options are also being considered.

CLC: All of those options are available today?

RM: All these agencies are available to us. Some of it is of an automatic nature, just simply by expressing a desire and interest in joining. We need only an instrument in which we convey to the Secretary-General of the United Nations our interest and we'll become automatically a member of these agencies.

Others have their own mechanisms, like the WHO which requires a simple majority vote from the general body. So all these things are under consideration.

So there are a host of many things that are before us that our leadership and the Arab leadership and France are studying and considering. W are analyzing and studying the reaction by others, including the United States and Israel, to every step that we will take and how to deal with these reactions.

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Casey L. Coombs is United Nations Correspondent at the Diplomatic Courier.

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