US defends veto of Palestinian bid for full UN membership

Contentious debate came as Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Israel to push for a ceasefire

US defends 'no' vote on full UN membership for Palestine

US defends 'no' vote on full UN membership for Palestine
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The US on Wednesday was forced to defend its recent Security Council veto of Palestine’s bid for full UN membership, in a contentious debate highlighting how Washington's position remains largely at odds with the international consensus.

The discussion at the UN General Assembly coincided with a trip US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made to Israel, where he pushed for a ceasefire that would bring a pause to nearly seven months of bloodshed in the Gaza Strip.

The General Assembly convened Wednesday's special session to discuss the April 18 US veto, which came despite broad international support for Palestine to join the world body. Currently, Palestine has only observer status.

Twelve of the Security Council's 15 supported the Algeria-drafted resolution, while Britain and Switzerland abstained.

The UAE’s ambassador to the UN, Mohamed Abushahab, who was speaking on behalf of the Arab Group of nations, noted that Israel was granted full UN membership 75 years ago while Palestine’s attempts to join have been repeatedly thwarted.

“The Palestinian people are still deprived of their right to self determination and the state of Palestine is still denied its legitimate right to full membership,” Mr Abushahab said.

“These double standards undermine the UN’s credibility, and contradict its founding principles of justice and equality.”

Robert Wood, the US deputy ambassador to the UN, reiterated to the General Assembly the position of President Joe Biden's administration, which is that Palestinian membership in the world body should be tied to a comprehensive peace agreement that would “permanently resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.

Riyad Mansour optimistic about Palestine becoming full member of UN - video

Riyad Mansour optimistic about Palestine becoming full member of UN

Riyad Mansour optimistic about Palestine becoming full member of UN

“Since the attacks of October 7, President Biden has been clear that sustainable peace in the region can only be achieved through a two-state solution, with Israel’s security guaranteed,” Mr Wood said.

“There is no other path that guarantees Palestinians can live in peace and with dignity in a state of their own.”

Riyad Mansour, Palestine’s ambassador to the UN, said he would take his request for full membership for a vote by the General Assembly on May 10.

General Assembly resolutions are non-binding, but Mr Mansour hopes to underscore international support for the Palestinian bid, which he said is backed by 140 countries.

The Palestinian envoy highlighted the plight of people in Gaza, where about 35,000 people have been killed since Israel launched its war on the enclave after the Hamas-led attacks of October 7 that killed about 1,200 people.

“Israel is still trying to push the Palestinian people out of geography and out of history, its occupation descending to deeper levels of depravity,” Mr Mansour said.

“The admission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations is an unequivocal signal that Palestinian self- determination and statehood are not subject to the whims and will of the extremists in Israel. Our admission to the UN is long overdue.”

Israel's UN ambassador Gilad Erdan said the UN had become a “sick joke” and accused his colleagues of “moral bankruptcy” for focusing on Gaza while all but ignoring any number of conflicts happening elsewhere.

“The only thing that the UN cares about is bashing the Jewish state,” Mr Erdan said.

“You don't really care about the Palestinians. You don't care about the Palestinians in Lebanon that are living under a real apartheid regime, or for Palestinians in Syria displaced or murdered by the Assad regime.”

The debate took place as Mr Blinken told Israeli leadership that the US is determined to reach a ceasefire in Gaza.

“Even in these very difficult times we are determined to get a ceasefire that brings the hostages home – and to get it now,” Mr Blinken said, as he met Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Tel Aviv.

“And the only reason that that wouldn't be achieved is because of Hamas.”

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Updated: May 03, 2024, 5:49 AM