Palestinians hold off on UN agency membership

AP News
Posted: May 20, 2013 6:32 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Palestinians have done all the legal work necessary to join 63 U.N. agencies, conventions and treaties but haven't applied yet mainly to give the latest U.S. peace effort a chance to succeed, the chief Palestinian negotiator said Monday.

Saeb Erekat said Monday that Palestinians have done "everything" to enable President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to succeed, and "there is a good opportunity now."

The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in November to upgrade the Palestinians from a U.N. observer to a nonmember observer state, a move vehemently opposed by the U.S. and Israel. Recognition as a state gives the Palestinians the right to apply for membership in U.N. and other organizations, including the International Criminal Court.

Erekat said the Palestinians have now completed the "instruments of accession" to join 63 U.N. specialized agencies, conventions and treaties, but they haven't been submitted because "mainly we wanted to give Obama and Kerry "a chance" along with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Russian President Vladimir Putin, the European Union and others to achieve a two-state solution based on borders before the 1967 Mideast war.

Kerry convinced the Arab world earlier this month to help promote a revival of peace talks by sweetening its deal of universal recognition for the Jewish state if it pulls out of most of conquered territory in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, with possible agreed land swaps. But he has struggled to gain any public concession from Israel, which was accused last week of taking steps last week to legalize four unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank.

"We are exerting every possible effort to see that Mr. Kerry succeeds," Erekat said. "No one benefits more (from) the success of secretary Kerry than Palestinians and no one loses more (from) his failure than Palestinians."

But he said Israel must stop settlement building which is an obligation under a 1995 interim agreement and the 2003 roadmap to a Palestinian state — not a condition for resuming peace negotiations.

"Israel must make the choice — settlements or peace," Erekat told a meeting of the U.N. Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

The issue of Jewish settlements has been at the heart of the current 4 1/2-year impasse in peace talks.

Peace talks broke down in late 2008 and have remained frozen since then. The Palestinians have refused to resume talks while Israel continues to build Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, areas where they hope to establish an independent state. Israel captured both areas in the 1967 Mideast war. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says talks should resume without any preconditions — and a halt to settlement building is a precondition.

If Kerry succeeds, Erekat said, the Palestinians will achieve their independence and freedom peacefully, but if he fails "we are going deeper into the evil apartheid that exists in the West Bank and East Jerusalem."