Palestinian flag hoisted at UNESCO

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Published Tuesday, December 13, 2011

In a significant diplomatic victory for the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian flag was hoisted on Tuesday at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, a first at a UN agency.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas proclaimed the flag raising as the first step towards full recognition of Palestine.

"This admission is a first recognition of Palestine," Abbas said at the ceremony in Paris.

"It is moving to see our flag raised today at a UN agency. I hope that this will be a good omen for Palestine's admission to other international organizations."

Palestine won admission into the UN's cultural agency in October, with an overwhelming majority of nations in favor of the Palestinian bid, 107-14.

The bid is part of a campaign by Abbas to gain full recognition of an independent Palestinian state.

Abbas is seeking full UN membership for Palestine, but his plans may be thwarted as any application would need to pass through the UN Security Council, where the US holds a veto.

The campaign has angered the US, Israel's primary backer, which is likely to veto a Palestinian bid for full UN membership at the Security Council.

The US withdrew funding for UNESCO after Palestine was successfully admitted, forcing UNESCO's director general, Irina Bokova, to announce drastic savings.

Washington is the largest sole contributor to UNESCO, making up 22 percent of the agency's budget.

Israel also reacted angrily to Palestine's admission, slapping a freeze on tax revenues owed to the Palestinian Authority before the Israeli cabinet lifted the ban earlier this month.

Israel is also accelerating the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank, announcing this week the building of 40 new settler homes in Bethlehem.

But US and Israeli pressure has not deterred Abbas, who remains adamant in achieving full recognition of Palestine from the international community.

"We are currently holding talks with the parties," he said when asked about the Security Council at a press conference.

"We have not yet asked for a vote but this could happen at any moment. If we don't have a majority, we will repeat our request again and again."

"We intend to address all international organizations," he said, adding: "But we will choose the right time to do this."

UNESCO's Bokova welcomed Palestine at the ceremony in Paris, expressing hope for a peaceful solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

"A solution with two states living in peace and security has been long-awaited," she said.

"I'd like to believe that this admission to UNESCO is a chance to show that peace is also built through education and culture."

(AFP, al-Akhbar)


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