Palestine's UN ambassador determined to achieve statehood amid Israel-Gaza war

Riyad Mansour tells The National that his people are not willing to negotiate or ask permission for self-determination

Riyad Mansour optimistic about Palestine becoming full member of UN

Riyad Mansour optimistic about Palestine becoming full member of UN
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In a diplomatic push for international recognition, Palestine is setting its sights on the UN Security Council, which could provide crucial support paving the way to its long-sought statehood.

In an interview with The National, Palestine’s ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour, said his government is not merely seeking any endorsement, but is aiming for a unanimous recommendation from the council, without a veto from any permanent member.

“We can live with an abstention,” he said, acknowledging the pragmatic approach the state of Palestine is willing to take to achieve its objectives.

Mr Mansour said Palestine is seeking admission through the mechanisms of the UN and for the 1947 partition plan called for by the General Assembly to “become a reality”.

“One [Israel] has it,” he said. “The other one will be seeking it and hopefully will have it very soon.”

Mr Mansour expressed confidence in the support his nation has in the Security Council and the backing from the bigger General Assembly.

A total of 139 of the 193 member states have so far recognised Palestine as a full-fledged sovereign state.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned last month during a Security Council meeting that refusal to accept the Palestinians' right to statehood “would indefinitely prolong a conflict that has become a major threat to global peace and security”.

Britain, one of several western nations that does not recognise Palestine as a sovereign state, recently called for the establishment of a diplomatic campaign by “all the friends of a Palestinian state” to make a two-state solution irreversible.

UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron recently wrote in an opinion piece in the Mail on Sunday that Britain and its allies can help by confirming their “commitment” to a sovereign, viable Palestinian state and their vision for its composition.

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“Crucially, we must state our clear intention to grant it recognition, including at the United Nations,” Lord Cameron said.

He said that the Palestinian leadership must help by forming a new government which “can immediately start to deliver”.

Mr Mansour read Lord Cameron's words “very closely” and said Palestine needs to engage the UK “extensively” on the issue so that “we can have the same understanding that it means the admission of the state of Palestine to membership”.

“Now, if that is possibly the position of the UK, we hope that it can influence the United States in that regard,” he said.

The shift in the drive for statehood began in November 2012, when 138 member states in the General Assembly voted to elevate Palestine's status to that of a non-member observer state, meaning it can take part in General Assembly sessions and maintain offices at the UN headquarters in New York.

It also began officially using the name “state of Palestine” for all purposes.

Today, Mr Mansour said Palestine needs to “receive a resolution from the Security Council recommending to the General Assembly to accept the state of Palestine as a [full] member, and therefore for the General Assembly to vote with two-thirds majority to approve that recommendation, which I believe we do have”.

Procedurally, only the Security Council can grant full recognition of a state and this cannot happen if one of the five permanent members vetoes its request.

For many years, the stance of the US – Israel’s closest ally – has been to oppose the recognition of Palestine as a state at the bilateral level and within UN bodies.

It has said that Palestinian statehood should be realised solely through direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

“We engaged everyone, including the United States, about two years ago on this issue … Washington decided that they will not be on board,” Mr Mansour said.

The pursuit of a diplomatic solution to the Gaza conflict has created an opportunity to re-evaluate strategies for advancing discussion on Palestinian statehood.

And it comes at a time when the two-state solution, a long-standing international vision for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, faces significant threats from what Mr Mansour described as “the current Israeli extremist rightist government”.

Palestine's admission to the world body is seen not only as a move towards self-determination but as a crucial “investment in peace” and in defence of the two-state solution itself, he said.

“It is the international community's duty to determine the fate of the two-state solution,” Mr Mansour said.

Mr Mansour, whose father moved to the US from Ramallah in the 1950s as a refugee, firmly rejected any unilateral action by Israel to dictate the terms of Palestine's statehood or its membership in the UN.

He said the right to self-determination is an “exclusive right to the Palestinian people alone” and is not something Palestine is willing to negotiate or seek permission for.

“It is not Israel unilaterally to dictate to us their wishes and to give us the permit to become a member state and to become a state and to exercise our right to self-determination,” Mr Mansour said.

“All these things are not acceptable to us.”

One of the stark differences in position between the US and the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah is that the latter did not condemn Hamas for the October 7 assault against Israel.

Mr Mansour said there was a double standard at play.

“Those who want to politicise this tragic situation, they want to condemn one side, and they don't want to condemn the horrific crimes committed by Israel against the Palestinian people,” he said.

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Updated: March 03, 2024, 10:22 AM