UN likely to back resolution to raise Palestinian flag

UN likely to back resolution to raise Palestinian flag
3 min read
10 September, 2015
A Thursday vote in the General Assembly will decide whether the Palestinian flag flies at the UN, but the Vatican, the other party affected by the proposal, remains indifferent.
The Palestinian flag will probably be raised in front of the UN soon [Getty]
The UN is expected on Thursday to allow the Palestinians to raise their flag at its headquarters in New York in a symbolic move highlighting Palestinian aspirations for statehood.

The General Assembly will vote at 3:00 pm (1900 GMT) on a draft resolution that diplomats say is almost certain to garner a majority in the 193-nation forum.

The resolution would allow the flags of Palestine and the Vatican – the only two non-member observer states at the UN - to be hoisted alongside those of the member states.

If adopted, the UN would have 20 days to implement the move, which would be in time for a visit by president Mahmud Abbas on 30 September, and possibly in time for Pope Francis' speech to the General Assembly on 25 September.

Flying the Palestinian flag would be "a symbolic thing"
- Riyad Mansour, Palestinian representative to the UN
On Wednesday, the Vatican's chief delegate to the UN said it was unclear whether the Vatican would fly its flag alongside the Palestinian flag if the draft resolution was approved, Reuters reported.

Archbishop Bernardito Auza also said the Vatican's flag would not fly at the UN before Pope Francis' speech, adding that it was unclear if the Vatican's flag would be flown at the UN at all.

The Palestinians initially presented their flag-raising initiative as a joint proposal with the Vatican, but the Vatican mission made it clear it would not co-sponsor the resolution and asked for references to the Vatican in the resolution to be removed.

A powerful symbol

Flying the Palestinian flag would be "a symbolic thing" Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian representative to the UN, said.

He added that it would be "another step to solidify the pillars of the state of Palestine in the international arena."

Mansour said the initiative had the potential to "give our people some hope the international community was still supporting the independence of the state of Palestine.

"Things are bleak, gloomy, the political process is dead, Gaza is being suffocated. This flag resolution is like the small light of a candle to keep hope alive for the Palestinian people."

Diplomats says the only unknown is how broad support for the resolution will be, and in particular the attitude of the Europeans who have been divided over the initiative.

Both Israel and the US have expressed strong opposition, with Israel's ambassador to the body Ron Prosor slamming "a blatant attempt to hijack the UN."

Prosor this week accused the Palestinians of trying to "score easy and meaningless points at the UN."

A US State Department spokesman called it a "counterproductive" attempt to pursue statehood claims outside of a negotiated settlement
He had asked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and General Assembly president Ron Kutesa to block the move, which would break with the UN practice of flying only the flags of member states.

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner called it a "counterproductive" attempt to pursue statehood claims outside of a negotiated settlement.

World leaders set to gather

Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are among world leaders converging on UN headquarters from September 25 for an anti-poverty summit and the annual General Assembly debate.

Pope Francis is to make a much-anticipated address on 25 September. The Vatican has officially recognized Palestine as a state.

The General Assembly upgraded the status of the Palestinians to that of non-member observer state in 2012.

The Vatican said it would abide by the decision of the General Assembly, but it also noted that the tradition at the United Nations was to fly the flags of full members.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been comatose since a failed US diplomatic effort in April last year, and a war in the Gaza Strip last summer left 2,200 Palestinians dead.