Hossam Ezzedine, AFP
Last updated: 8 September, 2011

Palestinians launch UN campaign as leaders meet

The Palestinians on Thursday began a campaign in support of their UN membership bid, as their senior leaders met to fine-tune the plan to become the UN’s 194th member state.

The launch of the campaign, dubbed “National Campaign for Palestine: state 194,” is part of the build-up to September 20, when Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is expected to submit the formal membership request.

Abbas on Thursday was meeting senior Palestinian representatives including the central committee of his Fatah party, the PLO’s executive committee and leaders of various Palestinian political parties.

The gathering to discuss details of the bid is likely to be one of the last that the Palestinian leadership will hold before the formal membership request is submitted to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

In Ramallah on Thursday, the solidarity campaign got under way with a march to UN headquarters in the West Bank city, where organisers presented a letter requesting that Ban support the membership bid.

“Today we began our campaign on the ground and we chose the UN building because it represents the United Nations and we expect them to respond to our demands,” Ahmed Assaf, the campaign’s coordinator, told AFP.

“We are no less important than the other 193 states in the United Nations, and our message will ask for our state to be 194.”

A copy of the letter shown to AFP said the campaign would continue “until the state of Palestine is finally admitted as member state number 194.”

It was delivered by Latifa Abu Hamid, 60, a Palestinian from the Amari refugee camp near Ramallah, and mother to seven sons who have spent time in Israeli prison. Her eighth son was killed by Israeli troops, she said.

“I’m delivering this message to the UN to say we have a right to our own state just like everyone else in the world and we have a right to see the end of the occupation,” she said.

The letter called on Ban to “stand by justice and do right by our people.”

“The admission of the state of Palestine to the UN is an important step towards ending the occupation and achieving Palestinian independence and realising a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East,” it continued.

“We hope that you will join the international consensus and support the Palestinian bid for its long overdue recognition.”

The letter was delivered to Pascal Soto, head of the UN office in Ramallah, who said he would transmit it to Ban.

Around 100 people joined the march to the headquarters, waving Palestinian flags and holding signs reading “We want a Palestinian state 194 in the UN.”

The protesters chanted “We want our identity, we want a state,” and called on Arab nations to throw their support behind the membership bid.

Abbas is to submit a formal request for Palestinian UN membership to Ban on September 20 and will address the General Assembly on September 23 in a speech officials say will be broadcast on giant screens in Palestinian cities.

The request is expected to seek full membership for a Palestinian state on the lines that existed before the 1967 Six Day War.

The bid is opposed by Israel and Washington, which has warned it will block the membership plan in the Security Council.

If the bid is vetoed in the body, the Palestinians plan to turn to the General Assembly where they are expected to easily win the votes needed to upgrade their representation from observer body to non-member state.