There was warm applause in UNESCO’s chamber as the result of the vote was announced. By voting strongly to give the Palestinians full UNESCO membership, the UN’s cultural organisation has boosted their bid for full statehood at the United Nations.
“It’s a great victory, it’s a historic moment in the life of the Palestinian people. Palestinians have been waiting for this moment for more than 60 years, and now they have it,” proclaimed the Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki.
107 out of 173 countries voting were in favour, including Russia, China and France. The US, Canada and Germany were against; Britain abstained.
The move may be popular, but it is also highly divisive. For the US, it simply undermines peace efforts.
“The US has been very clear about the need for a two-state solution. But the only path to the Palestinian state that we all seek is through direct negotiations. There are no short cuts and we believe efforts such as the one we have witnessed today are counter-productive,” said David Killion, US ambassador to UNESCO.
Israel also condemned the vote: “We regret that the organisation of science has opted to adopt a resolution which is a resolution of science fiction. Unfortunately, there is no Palestinian state and therefore one should not have been admitted today,” said the country’s ambassador to UNESCO Nimrod Barkan.
For UNESCO the move is a very costly one. In accordance with US law, Washington now says it is suspending its funding – more than a fifth of the organisation’s budget.
An instalment worth 43 million euros due to be paid in November has been cancelled.