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Palestine Given A Boost At The UN

November 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Sixty-five years on since the United Nations General Assembly voted to partition a territory in the Middle East into a Jewish state and an Arab State, the state of Palestine has been officially recognised by the UN.

While the state of Israel was admitted as a member of the UN back in 1949, it took the very people that created the Arab state over 60 years ago to recognise their creation. In that time countless lives have been lost on all sides over a war that could possibly have been avoided (or at the very least contained) had an official recognition of the state been given.

It has to be mentioned that originally, when the UN voted to partition the region into two states, the Arab Higher Committee rejected it while the Jewish leadership accepted it.

Over the next sixty plus years several wars were fought in the region between the newly formed state of Israel and its neighboring Arab countries. As these wars progressed Israel continued to accumulate more and more land.

Fast forward to 2012 and the world is finally welcoming Palestine as an official state. In an overwhelming show of support; 138 countries voted in favour, 9 voted against and 41 abstained.

While the majority of the General Assembly showed their support for the recognition, it is of little surprise that Israel voted against. What is a little disappointing is the US’ decision to vote against Palestine. The US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, explained why the US voted against the resolution, “Today’s unfortunate and counter-productive resolution places further obstacles in the path to peace.”

Earlier in the year Barack Obama explained that they felt the recognition of the state of Palestine by the UN would deter future peace talks with Israel.

The office of Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said “by going to the UN , the Palestinians have violated the agreements with Israel and Israel will act accordingly.” Of course, what this means remains to be seen.

While Palestine has been recognised, they are still not a full member state but are instead bestowed with a non-member observer status. This will mean that they can, at any time, submit an application to the UN for full membership. Earlier in the year Mohammed Abbas, the Palestinian President, planned on doing so until the US promised to veto any such application.

Today’s vote means Palestine has access to numerous UN organisations including the International Criminals Court. This is something Israel has strongly opposed, while many Palestinians feel it is a step to investigating the allegations of human rights crimes being committed by Israel. The vote is an indirect recognition of Palestine’s claim of statehood on the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.

Regardless of what the future holds, the people of Palestine are out on the street rejoicing for what they can only hope will be a step towards permanent peace.

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Sri Lanka’s YO-YO diplomatic service

For those who have not noticed Sri Lanka’s diplomatic service is a joke. You just need to look at our recent record at overseas events to see what I see. The worst part is, we werent always like this. For a long time (back in the 60s-80s) we were a shining example for many countries. Of course like so many things in the country, we took it for granted and let it slip.

Last week, those who follow the goings on in the diplomatic circle would have seen the “soap opera” style drama that unfolded regarding out Permanent Representative to the UN. Tamara Kunanayakam was apparently asked to choose an appointment by Ministry of External Affairs to either Brazil or Cuba. Of course to confirm this story it took a while, with conflicting reports coming out of the Ministry. She refused, and went so far as to play the race card. She identified herself, in a letter to the Ministry, as a Sri Lankan and a Tamil, she said her removal would open the door for people to question the government’s commitment to reconciliation.

A cheap shot, no matter how you see it, and certainly not one that should have been adopted by a supposed diplomat. Of course her letter was disregarded and she officially replaced by Ravinatha Aryasinha (Ambassador to the EU, Belgium and Luxembourg).

Of course the really embarrassing part is that Sri Lanka has been forced to send her back to her old post in Cuba. To highlight the YO-YO nature of the whole episode; Tamara was originally in Geneva, she moved to Cuba, returned to Geneva and is now back to Cuba. I am sure that Cuba won’t be happy to be used as a “timeout corner” for Sri Lankan diplomats.

So now we have the shuffling of diplomats complete, we seem to have forgotten the EU. Sri Lanka’s External Affairs ministry has forgotten to appoint (or at least announce) an ambassador. With Sri Lanka looking to expand its diplomatic missions in to Africa, we can only shudder at the thought of the organisation going in to it.

With Sri Lanka facing a fair number of challenges from the international community, you’d think that one thing they would look at improving would be the diplomatic circles. Of course we instead went and insulted one of our few allies in Cuba with this “punishment” of Tamara.

Hats off to G.L. and the rest of the gang in charge of our international relations