New Zealand backs UN’s status upgrade for Palestine

Results of the General Assembly’s vote on the resolution upgrading the status of Palestine (Photo source: UN Website/ Manuel Elias)

Venu Menon
Wellington, May 15,2024

New Zealand has voted in favour of a resolution welcoming Palestine to join the United Nations General Assembly.

The resolution, adopted on May 10, grants the Palestinians a seat among the UN members in the General Assembly, but without the right to vote.

Palestine has hitherto been a non-member observer state, a recognition  granted by the UN General Assembly in 2012.

The decision on full membership for Palestine is up to the UN Security Council.

Says New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters: “The resolution enhances the rights of Palestine to participate in the work of the UN General Assembly while stopping short of admitting Palestine as a full member of the UN.”

Peters has made it clear that while New Zealand “supports enhancing Palestine’s status at the UN, this does not amount to recognition of Palestine statehood.”

A statement released by the foreign minister’s office on May 11 says Israel and “a future Palestinian state living peacefully side-by-side is the only durable and just solution. That can only be achieved by the parties ending this conflict and returning to the negotiating table.”

Peters has stressed New Zealand’s commitment to a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict, and views “recognition of [Palestinian] statehood as a ‘when, not if’ question.”

But he insists the needs of the moment are “a permanent ceasefire, release of hostages, and relieving the humanitarian crisis.”

Peters has reiterated New Zealand’s opposition to any military action by Israel in the southern city of Rafah in Gaza, where over a million Palestinians are currently taking shelter.

At last week’s emergency special session on the Gaza crisis, the UN General Assembly, while upgrading Palestine’s rights at the world body, also urged the Security Council to give “favourable consideration” to Palestine’s request for full membership.

Granting full membership to Palestine requires a recommendation from the Security Council.

But from September 2024, an upgraded Palestine will have a right to sit among member states of the General Assembly in alphabetical order, issue statements, submit and introduce proposals and amendments, and the right to have members of its delegation elected as officers in the plenary and the main committees of the General Assembly.

The Palestinian delegation has a right to participate in all UN conferences and meetings convened under the auspices of the General Assembly.

Predictably, Israel opposed the General Assembly resolution. Its ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, shredded a copy of the UN Charter at the session, accusing members of having, in effect, done just that by welcoming a “terror state” into the Assembly.

The General Assembly resolution was adopted with 143 votes in favour and nine against. Nations that voted against the resolution included the United States, Argentina, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Papua New Guinea.

Twenty-five nations abstained from the vote, including the United Kingdom.

The issue of Palestinian statehood has a vexed history.

The declaration of the State of Palestine was first announced by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), the main representative of the Palestinians, in 1988. Palestinian statehood is supported by an estimated 139 out of 193 UN member states.

Currently, Palestinians have limited self-government through the Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of the West Bank, and Hamas in Gaza. Both are territories occupied by Israel during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Venu Menon is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Wellington

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