JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas raised the Palestinian flag at a ceremony marking its entrance into the United Nations cultural agency.
Abbas raised the flag Tuesday at UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, in Paris. He was scheduled to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
"This is truly a historic moment," Abbas said during the ceremony attended by about 50 guests. "This admission is a first recognition of Palestine.
"I hope that this will be a good omen for Palestine’s admission to other international organizations," he added.
The United States halted its dues payments to UNESCO following the late October vote to grant full membership to the Palestinians under legislation that prohibits U.S. funding to U.N. agencies that accord the Palestine Liberation Organization statehood status. The annual dues from the U.S. comprise more than 20 percent of UNESCO’s budget.
UNESCO approved the Palestinians’ bid during its general assembly in Paris by a vote of 107 to 14, with the United States, Canada and Germany among those voting against the motion.
It was the first U.N. agency that the Palestinians attempted to join since seeking full membership in the United Nations in September. The Palestinians previously had observer status in UNESCO. The Security Council is still considering the Palestinians’ statehood bid.
In November 2010, UNESCO adopted several proposals by Arab states classifying Jewish and Muslim holy sites. It referred to Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem as a mosque, in addition to using its Jewish designation of Rachel’s Tomb, and said the tomb as well as the Cave of the Patriarchs was "an integral part of the occupied Palestinian Territories." It called both landmarks "Palestinian sites."