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Palestinian flag raised at UN for first time

© Sophie Pilgrim, FRANCE 24 | The Palestinian flag is raised for the first time at the UN headquarters in New York.

Text by Sophie PILGRIM , in New York

Latest update : 2015-10-01

The Palestinian flag was raised at the United Nations headquarters for the first time on Wednesday, as President Mahmoud Abbas urged member states to back a two-state solution and bring an end to Israel’s occupation of the territories.

“In this historical moment, I say to my people everywhere: raise the flag of Palestinians very high because it is the symbol of our identity,” Abbas told a huge crowd, some of whom waved Palestinian flags. “It is a proud day,” he said.

The General Assembly voted on September 10 to allow non-member observer states to raise their flags alongside those of the 193 member states. An overwhelming majority of countries – 119 – supported the move. Eight voted against it, including the United States and Israel.

The Palestinians see the flag as an important step towards full membership at the UN, but Israel and the United States have dismissed the move as a symbolic gesture that would not serve the cause of peace.

Israelis react to Abbas’s speech

In response to the vote, Israeli envoy to the UN Ron Prosor accused the Palestinians of trying to “score easy and meaningless points at the UN” and called for a return to negotiations.

"Symbol can lead to action"

But UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday hailed the raising of the flag as a step closer to a two-state solution.

“The raising of the flag is a reminder that a symbol can lead to action,” Ban said. “It symbolises the commitment of the United Nations to support Palestinian aspirations. Now is the time for... at last… for two states.”

The crowd cheered and whooped as the flag was raised, although it lay limp initially, leading some to joke about bringing out a fan. As the wind picked up, cheers and applause rang out again.

Luma Diab, a Palestinian who lives and works in Qatar and was visiting the General Assembly with the Education Above All Foundation, said that she felt the move was more than symbolic.

“At first when I heard about this I just felt like it should have happened six decades ago,” Diab told FRANCE 24. “But I have to acknowledge that this is a step forward. Hopefully in the future we’ll see results from the UN on a political level too.”

End of Oslo agreement

Speaking ahead of the ceremony, Abbas announced that the Palestinian Authority was no longer bound by the Oslo Peace Accords. Abbas argued that agreements, which were signed in 1993 and 1995, had been broken due to violations by the Israelis.

“We cannot continue to be bound by these signed agreements with Israel and Israel must assume fully all its responsibility as an occupying power,” Abbas told the General Assembly.

The consequences of the decision were not immediately clear but analysts at the UN said the move would have little effect on the relationship between the two countries until the Palestinians further economic and security action.

Abbas paid special tribute to the French in his address, in response to diplomatic efforts by Paris to push a two-state solution.

“We welcome the international and European efforts, including the French initiative calling for the formation of an international support group for the achievement of peace [...] in accordance with the two-State solution based on the pre-1967 borders,” the president said.

Date created : 2015-09-30

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