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Updated: December 14, 2011 00:39 IST

Palestinian flag raised at UNESCO

AFP
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The Palestinian flag flies next to the UNESCO flag, moment after it was raised for the first time at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, Tusday Dec. 13, 2011. Palestine was admitted as a member of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in an October vote that prompted the U.S. to cut off funds to the agency.(AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)
AP The Palestinian flag flies next to the UNESCO flag, moment after it was raised for the first time at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, Tusday Dec. 13, 2011. Palestine was admitted as a member of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in an October vote that prompted the U.S. to cut off funds to the agency.(AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

Diplomatic victory amid stiff U.S. and Israel resistance

The Palestinian flag was raised for the first time on Tuesday above a U.N. agency, the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, in a diplomatic victory won despite stiff resistance from the U.S. and Israel.

Attending the ceremony, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said membership in the U.N.'s education, science and culture agency represented the key first recognition of his state and he hoped other world bodies would follow suit.

“This admission is a first recognition of Palestine,” Mr. Abbas said.

“It is moving to see our flag raised today at a U.N. agency. I hope that this will be a good omen for Palestine's admission to other international organisations.”

Admission to UNESCO has had no impact on the Palestinians' bid for full U.N. membership.

They would need nine votes out of 15 in the Security Council, but the U.S. has made clear that it would veto the bid.

Mr. Abbas said efforts were continuing to gain full U.N. membership and admission to other international institutions. “We are currently holding talks with the parties,” he said when asked about the Security Council at a press conference.

“We have not yet asked for a vote but this could happen at any moment. If we don't have a majority, we will repeat our request again and again.” “We intend to address all international organisations,” he said, adding: “But we will chose the right time to do this.” The Palestinians were admitted to UNESCO in late October, when its General Assembly voted 107-14 to make Palestine its 195th member.

The result angered the U.S., Israel's staunch ally, which says the Palestinians must reach a peace agreement with the Jewish state before they can become full members of an international organisation. Washington immediately suspended its funding to the U.N. body, which selects and oversees World Heritage sites and also works in areas from literacy and media freedom to science and environmental issues.

The U.S. cash freeze deprived UNESCO of 22 per cent of its budget, leaving a hole of $65 million this year and a $143-million shortfall for 2012-2013.

This forced its Director-General Irina Bokova to announce drastic savings, though some countries pledged exceptional contributions, among them Indonesia with $10 million and Gabon with $2 million.

At the ceremony, Ms. Bokova welcomed Palestine to UNESCO and said she hoped its admission would be a step toward peace with Israel.

“A solution with two states living in peace and security has been long-awaited,” she said. “I'd like to believe that this admission to UNESCO is a chance to show that peace is also built through education and culture.”

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