The UN General Assembly passed a resolution Thursday allowing Palestine and the Holy See – both non-member observer states – to raise their flags at UN headquarters, breaking with the tradition of only flying flags of member states.
The resolution, submitted by Palestine and 20 co-sponsors, was passed 119-8, with 45 abstentions.
The UN secretariat has to raise the flag of non-member observer states within 20 days, allowing the Palestinians to display their flag during a visit by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly on September 30.
The Holy See, the official UN name for the Vatican, which is the only other observer state at the UN, disassociated itself from the initiative early on, saying it would “accept whatever decision” the UN takes, according to a statement.
It is unclear if the Holy See will raise its flag. However, it is unlikely that the flag will fly during the visit of Pope Francis on September 25.
The resolution was backed by many countries belonging to the Non-Aligned Movement, a group of 120 states that do not support any political power bloc.
Israel, the US, Canada and Australia voted against the resolution.
“Raising the Palestinian flag outside the UN headquarters is not an alternative to negotiations and will not bring the parties closer to peace,” said Samantha Power, US ambassador to the UN.
Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, condemned the resolution, saying that the Palestinians “use and abuse” the world organization and “cynically manipulate the UN to score political points.”
“The Palestinians seem to be able to do whatever they want and are free to act with impunity,” Prosor said.
Prosor slammed the European Union for failing to agree on a unified position to abstain after EU countries voted in line with their national positions – Britain, Germany and Austria abstained, while France, Sweden and Luxembourg voted in favour.
Austria and Germany signaled that they did not see a compelling reason for changing the long-held tradition of flying the flags of full-fledged member states, however, both countries reassured the Palestinians that they were fully in support of a two-state solution.