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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
28 November 2012

Press Conference

            Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


Voting to grant non-Member Observer State status to Palestine would be an implicit recognition that the State of Palestine existed, and would open the way for negotiations, and give delegations the chance to join “the side of history and humanity”, the Permanent Observer of Palestine, Riyad Mansour, told reporters at a Headquarters press conference today.

The adoption of the resolution, which would change the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine from an “entity” to a “non-Member Observer State” on Thursday, 29 November, would be, Mr. Mansour said, a historic moment in the struggle of the Palestinian people, as well as in the history of the United Nations. The exercise had begun in 1947 when the General Assembly had legislated two States, and that global consensus for the two-State solution would finally become a legal reality in just a few days.

The goal, Mr. Mansour said, was to save the two-State solution through diplomatic, peaceful and democratic methods. Those who were not in favour of the resolution could be, consciously or unconsciously, supporting the option of war and destruction. On the other hand, those who were voting in favour were on the side of peace.

This, he continued, would pave the way for the possibility of serious negotiations between the two States to end the occupation, and to have the State of Palestine based on the borders of 4 June 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The resolution represented “a very important effort” to save the two-State solution. Following morning festivities, in which the international community would express solidarity with the Palestinian people, the General Assembly would take action on the resolution.

Close to sixty countries had already co-sponsored the draft, he said, and there was a strong possibility that more would join by the time action was taken. As the final draft document had only just been released, many delegations were still sending the text to their capitals. However, it was his belief that the great majority of nations would vote in favour, reflecting global consensus on the two-State solution.

To win support from the largest possible number of countries, the resolution had, from the beginning, been undertaken in a manner that was responsible and sensitive to issues of importance to various parties, he stressed, noting how pleased he was that so many countries had already declared their support, including the recent endorsement by France.

“It is now close to the eleventh hour,” he said, adding the hope that the issue could be resolved in a democratic manner, and that the result of the voting would be honoured and respected.

Regarding the threat of some to punish the Palestinians, he said the Observer Mission should not be coerced or threatened as a result of the adoption. The resolution would be legal, honourable and represent democracy and multilateralism. The Mission’s desire was to create an atmosphere conducive to negotiations with Israel so that an agreement could be reached to end the occupation and live side by side with the Israelis, in peace and security.

Responding to a question from a correspondent about negotiations, he said that there was a paragraph in the resolution that urged the parties to resume negotiations as soon as possible.

“President Abbas had said in front of the 27 members of the European Union at the meeting in Ramallah that his first priority was negotiations, his second priority was negotiations, and his third priority was negotiations,” Mr. Mansour said.

He went on to say that President Abbas believed that if the other side was ready and willing to meet in good faith, then the Palestinian leadership would reciprocate in a positive way. Further, he said that recognizing the 1967 borders, via the resolution, would already address some of the obstacles.

In regards to joining the International Criminal Court, he said the new status would not mean Palestine would rush to “join everything related to the United Nations”, including the Court, adding that if Israel behaved according to international law, then “no one would need to go after them”. Nonetheless, if Israel did not respect the resolutions of the Security Council, such as by continuing to build settlements — a war crime according to the International Criminal Court and the Rome Statute — then the Palestinians would seek guidance from the international community on how to bring Israel into compliance.

Asked about possible actions the United States might take in the Palestinian territories and the Arab world as a result of the resolution’s adoption, he said he hoped countries would not resort to punitive measures. If, however, negative actions were imposed on Palestine following adoption, it would deal with them in the best way it knew how.

Responding to further questions, he said that the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip had crystallized the importance of the vote on Thursday. The Palestinian leaders had come to the conclusion that negotiations needed to start as quickly as possible. Despite the recent aggression, which was reminiscent of earlier attacks, the Palestinian people “did not vanish and will not go away”. He said that in the past the option of war and destruction had been tried many times; yet the Israelis had been unable to eliminate the Palestinians through fighting. Now, countries were being asked to choose the way of peace.

Asked why President Abbas had not visited Gaza during the recent hostilities, and whether that implied that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) did not have control over Gaza, he said it was evident that there was a division in the Palestinian community, and that leaders were doing everything possible to establish reconciliation. A way was needed to put an end to the division among the two parts of Palestine, and elections would be held, if necessary, so the Palestinian people could decide the issue.

Speaking to further cooperation among Palestinian political parties, he said that Hamas leader Khaled Mashal had phoned President Abbas to express his support of the action on 29 November. The resolution was not, he emphasized, the position of one political party, but of all of them, including Hamas and Fatah. The intention was to have, with Mr. Abbas as the Prime Minister, a transitional Government. Its purpose would be two-fold: to open doors for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, and to prepare for elections, to which Hamas had agreed.

He said that history taught many lessons, but for people living under occupation and who suffered tremendously, the only interest was in ending that occupation and suffering, not in continuing to analyse the past and focus on “who was right or wrong”.

Regarding the support by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for Palestine’s statehood, he said it was unfortunate that some had used the “weapon of money” and fees as a tool to punish that distinguished agency.

Asked whether pressure has been put on President Abbas, in light of the perception that Hamas had “scored a victory” with Gaza, to achieve diplomatic success with the adoption of the resolution, he said that legislating for non-Member Observer State status was a form of “diplomatic resistance”. He hoped that many countries would stand with the Palestinians, on the side of democracy, legality, multilateralism and peace.

The morning proceedings on 29 November would commence at 10 a.m., under the leadership of the Secretary-General, the General Assembly President, the Security Council President, and the President of the Palestinian Committee. Action on the resolution and further consideration by the General Assembly of the question of Palestine would then begin at 3 p.m.

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For information media • not an official record

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