GENEVA (Dec. 15)
The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly Thursday to recognize the state of Palestine proclaimed by Yasir Arafat in Algiers last month.
It also voted to upgrade the status of Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization at the United Nations.
The vote on the combined resolution was 104-2, with 36 abstentions. Only the United States and Israel were opposed.
It followed by hours an announcement Wednesday evening in Washington that the United States will hold a “substantive dialogue” with the PLO. The move was a stunning reversal of American policy, which since 1975 has ruled out any contact with the PLO.
But the United States objected strongly Thursday to the U.N. resolution, stressing that its new willingness to speak to the PLO in no way implied recognition of a Palestinian state.
The PLO, until now a non-governmental observer at the world organization, has been raised to the level of a “Palestine observer delegation,” which is midway between an independence movement is and a non-member state.
The resolution also “affirmed the need of the Palestinian people to exercise their sovereignty over their territory occupied since 1967.”
On another ballot, the General Assembly voted 138-2, with two abstentions, for a resolution calling on the U.N. secretary-general to help convene an international conference under U.N. auspices, with the participation of all parties to the Middle East conflict, including the PLO “on an equal footing.”
DISMANTLING OF SETTLEMENTS
The resolution, introduced by the Soviet Union, asks for Israel’s withdrawal from the administered territories and the dismantling of all Jewish settlements in the territories.
Both resolutions were assailed by Ambassador Joseph Petrone, the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva.
He maintained they “were unhelpful and inconsistent with the search for peace.” Such one-sided resolutions will only make it more difficult to bring the concerned parties together at the very time America is prepared to engage in substantive talks with the PLO, the U.S. envoy argued.
He added, “Our decision to engage in a dialogue with the PLO should not be taken to imply acceptance or recognition by the USA of an independent Palestinian state.”
All of the Western European states, including pro-Palestinian Greece, abstained from voting to recognize Palestine, as did many Latin American and some African countries. But the United States was alone among the Western nations in rejecting the resolutions, indicating that it remains isolated from its most important allies on the Mideast.
Only two countries abstained from voting on the resolution for an international conference and the dismantling of Jewish settlements: Canada and Costa Rica.