Palestinian flag raised at UNESCO headquarters

Updated: 2011-12-14 15:23


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Palestinian flag raised at UNESCO headquarters

The Palestinian flag flutters after a flag raising ceremony at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris December 13, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

PARIS - Palestinian flag was raised at the headquarters of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris on Tuesday, over one month after its admission as a full member to the UN agency.

Noting UNESCO membership goes beyond raising the flag, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said at the ceremony "The Palestinian people, as all peoples, must be able to preserve their culture and heritage. They must benefit from quality education, education for peace."

The Palestinians were admitted as the 195th member of the agency on October 31 with 107 countries out of 173 voting in favor and 14 against the bid. Fifty-two abstained from the vote.

UNESCO official said the flag-hoisting ceremony was a symbolic event to mark the Palestinians' admission as the tradition goes for each new member.

"Culture, education, the sciences, and communication must be bridges, not pretexts for division ... This is why I dream of joint protection of world heritage by Israel and Palestine. I dream of joint educational textbooks on the history of shared ties to the land where Israelis and Palestinians live," Bokova said, addressing a big attendance of delegates of UNESCO members with Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also on the platform.

Katalin Bogyay, Hungary's Ambassador to UNESCO and President of the 36th General Conference of the UN agency, also bid her warm welcome to the Palestinians, saying the organization can and should seek cooperation to build a better future for all people in the world.

Greeted by loud applause, Abbas said "It's very moving to see our flag raised here with all UNESCO members ... we hope this will be a good omen for Palestine to become members of all UN organizations."

Hailing this "truly historical moment," Abbas said the Palestinian authority and its people will continue to cooperate with UNESCO in promoting better education system, gender equality and in protecting cultural heritage.

The Palestinians' membership became official on November 23 when signed and accepted UNESCO's Constitution at the National Archives in London.

"Now Palestine has become a member of UNESCO, I sincerely hope we will be able to have one day an independent state," Abbas concluded at the ceremony.

To show its opposition, the United States immediately suspended its financing support to the UN cultural agency after the October vote, depriving UNESCO of 22 percent of its budget and forced UNESCO to launch saving plans. Canada later followed the suit of the United States.

At an afterwards press conference also at UNESCO headquarters, Abbas said the disapproving states are not enemies of the Palestinians as they have independent sovereignty to take their own decision, but he meanwhile called those states to rethink the reason why many other countries supported Palestinian admission into UNESCO.

The Palestinians' cooperation and relation with UNESCO is "not a political thing," but it "does contribute to political issues," Abbas said to the press. He added that the Palestinians would like to restart negotiation with Israel on all topics as long as Israel stops expanding its settlements.

"If we don't get the majority, we will try another time," the Palestinian leader said, referring to the Palestinians' effort for the UN membership.