Ma’an News | – –
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The United Nations General Assembly voted late Thursday in favor of raising the Palestinian flag at its headquarters in New York by an overwhelming majority, in a symbolic diplomatic victory in the PLO’s campaign for statehood.
A resolution was adopted by member states with 119 in favor, eight voting against — including Israel and the United States — and 45 abstentions.
President Mahmoud Abbas hailed the decision, adding that the struggle will continue until the flag is raised over the “eternal” Palestinian capital of Jerusalem.
“It is a symbolic thing, but another step to solidify the pillars of the state of Palestine in the international arena,” said Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian representative to the UN.
“We are looking forward to the day that the flag is raised, at the end of the month, with the presence of President Mahmoud Abbas, and we hope that the flag will also be raised that day in homes, schools, shops, universities, institutions and everywhere that you see appropriate,” he added.
PA Minister of Foreign Affairs, Riyad al-Maliki, called the vote a “historic moment” and thanked countries who voted in favor, saying they have sent a message of hope to Palestinians.
Countries who abstained, or voted against, must reconsider their position towards the peace process, he added.
“The Palestinian flag symbolizes the struggle and sacrifices of our people. We remember our brave martyrs, prisoners, the wounded and their families that have made sacrifices for Palestine to live.”
In Paris, Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah called the flag vote “a step on the road towards Palestine becoming a full member of the United Nations.”
The Palestinian and Holy See flags can be raised outside official United Nations buildings, including in Geneva and Vienna.
European nations were divided on the move, with France, Russia and Sweden voting in favor while others such as Britain, Germany, Austria, Finland, the Netherlands and Cyprus abstained.
French ambassador Francois Delattre stated that “this flag is a powerful symbol, a glimmer of hope,” for the Palestinians amid broken-down peace talks.
China also voted in favor of the measure.
Mansour said Palestinians had been lobbying intensively in recent weeks to round up the needed votes.
When the Palestinians gained non-member observer status on November 29, 2012, it was by a vote in the General Assembly of 138-9, with 41 abstentions
Both Israel and the United States firmly opposed the move. Canada and Australia also voted against the measure.
“Raising the Palestinian flag outside the UN headquarters is not an alternative to negotiations (between Palestinians and Israel), and will not bring the parties closer to peace,” US ambassador Samantha Power said.
Israel ambassador Ron Prosor said that the Palestinians “cynically manipulate the UN to score political points.”
According to Prosor, “no vote can turn an empty symbolic gesture into a state.
“The international community must make it clear to the Palestinians that the only way to achieve statehood is through direct negotiations.”
Prosor said that the vote “may serve the interests of Palestinian leaders, but it will not help the Palestinian people.”
Abbas is scheduled to speak to the world body on Sept. 30.
Pope Francis is to make a much-anticipated address on September 25. The Vatican has officially recognized Palestine as a state.
Ahead of the vote the Vatican’s UN representative, Bernardito Auza, told reporters that the Holy See did not intend to raise the flag ahead of the pope’s upcoming visit, but did not rule out doing it in the future.
AFP contributed to this report.
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