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UNESCO Body Votes Unanimously to Postpone PLO Vote for 2 Years

October 18, 1989
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization decided by unanimous vote Tuesday to postpone for two years consideration of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s request for admission as the “state of Palestine.”

But Israel was dissatisfied and complained angrily that the PLO’s bid will be allowed to come up for consideration at the next session of the General Conference in October 1991.

The 161-member General Conference of UNESCO is that agency’s equivalent of the U.N. General Assembly. Its biennial session opened here Tuesday and will run through Nov. 16.

The PLO’s application for membership in UNESCO was the General Conference’s first order of business.

The decision to defer it was recommended Oct. 10 by the UNESCO executive committee, the organization’s 51-member governing body. Ratification of its decision by the General Conference was expected.

Israel voted for the resolution because “we did not want to break the consensus by voting against” it, said its delegate, Ambassador Ya’akov Aviad.

“But we want vehemently to protest against” it, he said after the vote was taken. Aviad said the decision to reject the PLO should have been final, not merely a postponement.

The PLO has been trying to establish international recognition by seeking entee into U.N. specialized agencies as a full member with sovereign rights.

It has had no success so far, largely because of American opposition.


The United States, the largest contributor to the United Nations, has rallied its Western European allies and others in support of Israel’s efforts to thwart Palestinian ambitions.

But UNESCO is the “weakest link,” because the United States is not a member. It withdrew in 1985, charging mismanagement and anti-Western bias.

The American defection cost the agency $47 million in revenues plus the loss of additional payments for social projects.

The U.S. observer mission had sufficient clout to block debate over the PLO’s admission to UNESCO by making clear that the United States would never return if the PLO became a member.

But Arab delegates have pointed out that Washington has made no clear commitment to rejoin, even if the PLO is barred. It has fallen to UNESCO’s director general, Federico Mayor Zaragoza, to obtain such a commitment.

An international delegation of experts met with him here Monday to urge that he continue his efforts in that direction.

Mayor, a Spaniard who has been very sympathetic to Israeli and Jewish needs, said in an interview in Le Monde last week that he realized “that one of the roads to Washington” is through Israel.

He said he would pay an official visit to Israel this winter, something his predecessor, Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow of Senegal, always refused to do.

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