To discuss the decision of the Palestinian authority to ask for recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations, and the consequences of such a decision on a national and international level, euronews spoke to Mohammed Awad, Foreign Minister in the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip.
Jamel Ezzedini, euronews: “Mr Awad, let’s begin with the position of Hamas, which refuses to go the United Nations to demand recognition of a Palestinian state. Why this refusal, and what are the guarantees that your organisation has brought to mind which the Palestinian authorities have missed?”
“Firstly I’d like to point out that it’s not a refusal, rather the clarification of a position. It’s the lot of the Palestinian people that’s being played with here.
“We’re demanding that Palestine is a full member of the UN, and that also includes the position of the PLO and internal reconciliation. They are issues of the utmost importance for us and are central to the Palestinian cause. So to make a decision like that or take such a stance, you have to reassure yourself that all those questions have been taken into account.”
euronews: “International public opinion supports the establishment of a Palestinian state, so going to the security council to ask for recognition seems logical. And yet you say that recognition would mean abandoning the rights of the Palestinian people, and particularly the right of refugees to return. How do you explain that?”
“That’s a question for Mister Mahmoud Abbas. He’s the one who’s gone to seek recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN. He must explain to the Palestinian people how and why he took this decision so the people can take a position on it.
“We salute the efforts of all countries that support the Palestinian people and the idea of a Palestinian state and we encourage them to continue with that process.
“Concerning internal matters, we think that’s a question for Palestinians. We want to know with all certainty that joining the United Nations will not have any consequence on the right of refugees to return, so they can settle again in the historic Palestine, and not just in the framework of a Palestinian state.
euronews: “So you refuse the demand that the Palestinian Authority asks to be accepted as an observer member by the United Nations, without the same rights enjoyed by other members, in case the United States uses its veto in the vote?”
“We want to be a full member of the United Nations, and here on the ground we want a real Palestinian nation, not just a media event which could lose Palestinians their rights.”
euronews: “But Mr Awad, you refuse to go to the UN, just as you refuse direct negotiations with the Israelis. What do you think the options are for ending this conflict?”
“Let’s go back to the words of Mr Abbas when he said the negotiations have brought nothing to Palestinians and he had no other choice.
“Personally, I call on him to negotiate first with the different Palestinian factions, real talks with Hamas, with Islamic Jihad and with the Popular Front to create a common plan, a plan which is more of an alternative and not just a peace process.
“We have more than one alternative, like resistance in all of its forms. We must put more pressure at the heart of the United Nations through European countries.
euronews: “With respect Mr Awad, that’s exactly what Mr Abbas and the Palestinian authority are doing… going to the UN to demand recognition of a Palestinian state.
“I’m not against the idea of turning to the United Nations. I’m against this particular step that could lead to the rights of Palestinian people being lost.
“First of all, you have to be sure that demanding recognition of a state at the UN will guarantee the rights of the Palestinian people. At that point we could support such a move. But we refuse to go the UN knowing we’ve got no alternative and ignoring what will happen afterwards if there’s a refusal, and the consequences of such a refusal.
“Let me answer clearly and with all honesty, if you ask Palestinians: ‘Do you think that going to the United Nations will have a negative impact on Palestinians’ rights?’ If the answer is yes, then of course they’ll reject the idea.
euronews: “Mr Awad, the differences between Hamas and Fatah rose to the surface again with the decision by the Palestinian authority to go to the UN. Because of that the Cairo reconciliation now seems over. What do you think the consequences will be for Palestinian unity at his crucial time for you?”
“Let me answer you in all honesty. What’s important for us right now? Is it to have a common Palestinian position, and to go to the United Nations with a single united voice? Or take the decision to go to the UN despite all these disagreements? The answer is easy. What Mr Abbas mentioned elsewhere in his last speech, when he said he would like a national reconciliation that would assure unity between the different political movements.
“Why haven’t we taken a single step towards national unity first, and warned the Palestinian people about the different consequences of these moves, and THEN go to the UN? That way, we’d all be responsible and we’d avoid this fog which is hanging over this step.”
euronews: “Don’t you think your refusal is a kind of punishment of the authority, because as you said, it’s scarcely negotiated enough with Hamas before taking this decision?”
“Quite the opposite. The problem is not a lack of negotiations with us, but more of a very significant and ominous decision. Before taking such a decision, we have to know the eventual consequences.
“Mr Abbas said in his speech that we want to become a permanent member of the United Nations, but he added that he’s got no alternative were the US to use its veto. Is it possible to take a decision of such significance completely ignorant of the consequences of a refusal. The best would be to have the alternatives, by negotiating with the different Palestinian factions first.”
euronews: “What impact do you think the revolutions in the Arab world could have on the Palestinian cause? What does Hamas think of the Arab Spring?”
“Without doubt the Arab revolutions bring a direct support to the Palestinian cause and represent a positive factor that could help our cause find solutions. But we fear these revolutions could have their own problems and as a result will need a lot of time to succeed and play an important role in the region.”
euronews: “You’ve asked for Turkey to play a greater role in the conflict, and have welcomed Prime Minister Erdogan’s decision to visit Gaza soon. Turkey is attempting to be a major player in the region. Do you expect Turkey to play a bigger role in supporting the Palestinian cause?”
“We think Turkey and Egypt should play a significant role in the conflict. They are capable of making demands and could help find a solution to this conflict. Contrary to what you might hear, there is a continuous peace process going on. What we want is a sustainable peace in the context of a Palestinian state, supported by Turkey and by all Arab countries who choose peace and strive for stability in the region.”