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Palestinian membership at UN appears on hold

“Pushing toward a vote on a Security Council resolution at this point I think is unfortunate,” said Robert Wood, deputy U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Vanessa Frazier, Maltese ambassador to the United Nations and president of the Security Council for the month of April, arrives to chair the Security Council meeting on maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine. Credit: Mark Garten/United Nations photo.
Vanessa Frazier, Maltese ambassador to the United Nations and president of the Security Council for the month of April, arrives to chair the Security Council meeting on maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine. Credit: Mark Garten/United Nations photo.

The U.N. Security Council’s Standing Committee on the Admission of New Members emerged on Thursday afternoon without a consensus—for the second time this week—on the topic of Palestinian membership.

Vanessa Frazier, the Maltese ambassador to the global body and president this month of the Security Council, told reporters that “there was no consensus” in the meeting, which was closed to the press, and she anticipates no further meetings by the committee.

By longstanding Security Council practice, membership applications are only turned over to the council for a vote if consensus is reached at the committee level. Two-thirds of the council wants to move forward to a vote on Palestinian membership, while five countries are not yet prepared to support Palestinian membership, according to Frazier.

Robert Wood, the deputy U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters prior to Thursday’s meeting that “the product of a two-state solution needs to come from bilateral negotiations.”

“This has been our position for quite some time. Many other countries share that position as well,” he said. “Pushing toward a vote on a Security Council resolution at this point I think is unfortunate if that is what happens. But that certainly is the discussion we understand is going on.”

A reporter asked if Washington would veto such a vote. “I am not going to get ahead of all of this,” Wood said. “Just to say our position has not changed on this question.”

The council had set a deadline for this month to move the application forward, and with the United States making clear that it won’t change its position, the Palestinians’ hopes appear dashed at this point.

The committee is expected to produce a report as early as Friday indicating the lack of consensus and its inability to recommend full Palestinian membership.

Several diplomats told reporters after Thursday’s meeting that Algeria—the council’s de facto representative of the Palestinians and greater Arab and Muslim world—plans to initiate its own Security Council resolution on full Palestinian membership.

It would put that up for a vote on Thursday, at the next scheduled council session on the Israel-Palestinian file, to put Washington on record as having rejected it. That ministerial-level meeting, which draws foreign ministers and sometimes prime ministers in addition to ambassadors, comes with heightened media attention.

As one of the five permanent council members, Washington has veto power over resolutions.

Vassily Nebenzia, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, said ahead of Thursday’s committee meeting that he didn’t expect any breakthrough.

Washington “doesn’t want to put it to the Security Council,” he said, adding that nothing that he saw in Monday’s initial committee meeting was different from Palestinians’ 2011 application, which lacked the minimum nine necessary votes to gain the council approval.

“We exerted all efforts that the admission committee could have done,” Nebenzia said.

The Palestinians have the necessary two-thirds majority in the 193-member U.N. General Assembly to gain final membership approval if their application ever passes the Security Council.

The Palestinians have held U.N. non-member observer status, which the General Assembly granted, since 2012.

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