Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Latin America and Palestinian recognition at the U.N.

On Tuesday U.S. President Barack Obama and his Brazilian counterpart, Dilma Rousseff, helped inaugurate the Open Government Partnership. Despite joining together to chair the UN promoted initiative, both leaders are expected to meet today and discuss an issue that has placed them at odds with each other: Palestinian statehood.

In recent months leaders of nearly every Latin American country have given their backing to the creation of a Palestinian state. Rousseff, who will become the first woman to open a General Assembly session, is expected tomorrow to reiterate Brazilian support that was first mentioned nine months ago. “As we all know Brazil recognized the Palestinian State December 2010, in a letter addressed by former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to the president of the Palestinian National Authority…and there is no change anticipated in the Brazilian position, said a presidential spokesperson according to the website of Brazzil Magazine.

The U.S. and Israel have attempted to dissuade Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas from seeking a U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolution for the recognition of a Palestinian state. According to Bloomberg a potential UNSC resolution for Palestine has the support of at least eight members including Brazil, which is one short of the nine needed to pass the resolution. But that crucial ninth vote will not come from the other UNSC representative: Colombia. Yesterday Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguín said that he county would abstain and also echoed U.S. diplomatic sentiment by calling for a “bilateral dialogue between Israel and Palestine.”

With the U.S. expecting to use the veto power in the UNSC the decision over Palestinian recognition may be decided by the General Assembly. Since Latin America and Caribbean bloc could have a big impact in a General Assembly vote, it should come as no surprise that Israeli and Palestinian diplomats have tried to seek any advantage possible:
At a meeting in El Salvador in August of representatives of about 30 Caribbean and Central American governments, the Palestinian Foreign Minister, Riyad al-Malki, spoke on the issue of Palestinian statehood. Although, as the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported, it ''was never included in its agenda''.

Israel appealed to summit officials, asking that the al-Malki speech be cut from the program. A squabble ensued - with delegates to the conference (among them Belize, population 333,000; Grenada, 110,000; St Kitts and Nevis, 51,000) agreeing that the Palestinians could give a ''courtesy speech'', while Dorit Shavit, an official of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, was dispatched to the summit to make a similar speech on behalf of Israel.
Image- Reuters via BBC News (Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.)

Online Sources- The Globe and Mail, BusinessWeek, CNN, Colombia Reports, Brazzil Magazine, CBS News, Sydney Morning Herald

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