PA to halt membership bids to U.N. agencies


JERUSALEM (JTA) – The Palestinian Authority said it would stop trying to gain membership to U.N. agencies on the same day that Israel said it would stop paying dues to UNESCO.

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said Thursday that the Palestinians would shelve their plans to gain admission to other agencies and focus on their application to become a full member of the United Nations General Assembly. The statement contradicts a statement made two days earlier by the Palestinian envoy to the U.N. headquarters in Geneva indicating that the Palestinians would pursue membership to some 16 U.N. agencies.

Thursday’s decision comes as Israel said it would freeze its contributions to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in the wake of the agency’s vote on Monday to give full membership to the Palestinians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel’s $2 million annual contribution to UNESCO would be withheld and instead be directed to cooperative initiatives in the region working toward the same goals as UNESCO.

"Such steps will not advance peace; they will only push it further away," Netanyahu said following the announcement, referring to this week’s vote. "The only way to reach peace is through direct negotiations without preconditions."

The United States, applying a long-standing law, cut funding to UNESCO following the vote. Its annual dues make up more than 20 percent of the agency’s budget.

Meanwhile, the director general of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, called on the United States to reinstate its funding, saying the cutoff jeopardized programs that are important to the U.S. Bokova also said that without the U.S. funding, the agency will not be able to maintain its current level of activity, The Associated Press reported.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told AP on Thursday that Palestinian efforts to seek membership in other U.N. agencies are "not beneficial for Palestine and not beneficial for anybody."

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