PLO Abandons Bid to Join Unesco, but Wins Pledge of Cooperation
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PLO Abandons Bid to Join Unesco, but Wins Pledge of Cooperation

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The Palestine Liberation Organization and its supporters were reported Thursday to have abandoned their bid for full membership of the “Palestinian state” in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

They will settle instead for a promise of future close cooperation between UNESCO and “Palestine,” diplomatic sources here said.

Omar Messallah, the PLO observer at UNESCO, claimed that “the principle” of admission “has been accepted, but a matter of timing and opportunity forces us to postpone the debate.”

The reported compromise reached here appears to end the PLO’s recent campaign for admission, with full sovereign rights, into several U.N. agencies.

The campaign was intended to gain respectability for the PLO and international recognition for the independent Palestinian state proclaimed by the Palestine National Council in Algiers last November.

That effort has been frustrated by the United States.

The UNESCO compromise reportedly was hammered out with the active assistance of the United States, which quit UNESCO in 1985. The Americans made clear that admission of the PLO would kill chances of their ever returning.

UNESCO, headquartered here, had been a major target of the PLO’s diplomatic efforts.

Seven member states — Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Mauritania, Nigeria, North Yemen and Senegal — petitioned UNESCO’s 51-member executive council to recommend admission of the “Palestinian state” to the General Conference, the agency’s equivalent of the U.N. General Assembly. It will convene here in October.


The executive council was to examine the request on June 19. It is now likely to examine and adopt the compromise resolution, which is fully backed by the UNESCO director general, Federico Mayor Zaragoza.

The text of the resolution recommends “closer collaboration between Palestine and UNESCO.” But it is not clear if the text provides for admission of the undefined entity called “Palestine” as a member.

Diplomatic sources said that matter would come up for interpretation at the next session of the executive council in September.

Israeli officials said they believe the promised cooperation would fall far short of membership. Moreover, it would entitle “Palestine,” not the PLO or a state of Palestine, to participate more actively in UNESCO’s cultural activities, they said.

The United States, which maintains observer status at UNESCO, wields considerable influence because of the chance that it might rejoin the organization and make a substantial contribution to its budget.

In recent weeks, John Bolton, the U.S. deputy secretary of state in charge of international organizations, advised Mayor and other UNESCO leaders that rejoining would not be possible if the PLO is admitted.

A U.S. threat to suspend its assessed and voluntary contributions to the World Health Organization had a similar impact on the World Health Assembly when it convened in Geneva last month with a PLO request for admission on the agenda. The assembly decided on May 12 to defer the matter for one year.

The International Telecommunications Union, meeting in Nice last week, avoided debate on a resolution calling for the admission of the PLO and the expulsion of Israel. American intervention was believed responsible.

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