x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Unesco committee boosts Palestinian statehood bid

The Unesco executive committee backed Palestine's bid to become a member of the cultural body with the rights of a state by 40 votes in favour to four against, sending the bid through to a meeting of the organisation's general assembly.

PARIS // Palestine won a first diplomatic victory in its quest for statehood yesterday when the Unesco executive committee backed its bid to become a member of the cultural body with the rights of a state.

Palestine's Arab allies resisted intense US and French diplomatic pressure in bringing the motion before the committee's member states, which passed it by 40 votes in favour to four against, with 14 abstentions.

No power has a veto on the Unesco committee, and Washington's "no" vote in Paris was not enough to halt the motion..

France, which abstained on the motion, said "it was not the time" for Palestine to pursue Unesco backing, calling instead for a return to talks with Israel on a final peace settlement.

Unesco membership would allow Palestine to apply to classify its monuments as World Heritage Sites at a time when the heritage of much of its land is under dispute.

Muslims wish to submit Jesus Christ's supposed birthplace in Bethlehem, and the ancient walled city of Jericho, one of the oldest ruins known to man, for Unesco heritage status.

To nail down yesterday's victory, the Palestinians will need the backing of two thirds of Unesco's 193 member states in a vote at a general assembly on October 25 in Paris. Until then, they retain observer status.