Palestinians win vote on UNESCO bid

Oct. 6, 2011 at 9:13 AM
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PARIS, Oct. 6 (UPI) -- Palestinian leaders won a U.N. vote for membership in UNESCO, which U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she found "quite confusing."

"I have to state that I find it quite confusing and somewhat inexplicable that you would have organs of the UN making decisions about statehood or quasi-statehood status while the issue has been presented to the United Nations," Clinton said during a press availability Wednesday in the Dominican Republic. "I think that that is a very odd procedure indeed, and would urge the governing body of UNESCO to think again before proceeding with that vote because the decision about status must be made in the United Nations and not in auxiliary groups that are subsidiary to the United Nations."

She said she thought it was "unfortunate" that there is a policy to pursue recognition "of whatever sort" through the United Nations instead of negotiating issues with Israel that would result in a "real" Palestinian state.

The United States strongly supports negotiations and wants to see them resume as quickly as possible because "we know that there cannot be a [Palestinian] state without negotiations," Clinton said.

Full membership in UNESCO -- the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization -- could mean a legally mandated cutoff of U.S. contributions, both in forms of dues and voluntary donations, The New York Times reported.

U.S. legislation appears to mandate cutting off money to the United Nations or its agencies if they grant "full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood," the Times said. U.S. contributions fund about 22 percent of UNESCO's budget.

"[We] are certainly aware of strong legislative prohibition that prevents the United States from funding organizations that jump the gun, so to speak, in recognizing entities before they are fully ready for such recognition," Clinton said. "So it is still our hope and our strong recommendation that we take this to the appropriate forum, which is the negotiating table ... ."

UNESCO's 58-nation executive board, at the agency's headquarters in Paris, gave its initial approval on a 40-to-4 vote with 14 abstentions. Full membership must be approved by the 193-nation General Conference.

Palestinian leaders submitted their bid for recognition to the U.N. Security Council Sept. 24 as international leaders try to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

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