The Palestinians have joined two United Nations agencies and the global convention to halt the spread of chemical weapons, a UN envoy said yesterday, despite a threat of US funding cuts.
At the United Nations, the Palestinians have the status of a non-member observer state that allows them to seek membership of agencies and become a party to international treaties.
The move will raise the Palestinians’ profile in international diplomacy and comes amid a rift with President Donald Trump’s administration over its decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Palestinians want to make East Jerusalem the capital of their promised future state.
Nickolay Mladenov, the UN co-ordinator for the Middle East, told the Security Council that the Palestinians had joined the Geneva-based UN trade organisation UNCTAD, Vienna-based industrial development agency Unido and the Chemical Weapons Convention.
“On May 15, Palestine acceded to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the Convention on the Prohibition, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons,” Mladenov said.
The envoy did not address whether the decision will have an impact on funding from the United States for these agencies and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The United States withdrew in 1996 from Unido, a little-known agency that promotes “inclusive and sustainable industrial development,” according to its website.
The OPCW and UNCTAD rely on voluntary contributions from UN member-states to fund its activities as well as regular funding for its budget.
The United States withdrew some funding for Unesco when the Palestinians joined the cultural and education agency in 2011 and last year pulled out of the agency altogether.
The Trump administration has also cut funds to the UN Palestinian refugee agency, leaving UNRWA struggling to fill a major gap in its education and health programmes.
The OPCW announced in The Hague earlier that Palestine will become the 193rd state to join the chemical weapons convention.
Only four countries — Israel, Egypt, North Korea and South Sudan — have yet to ratify the chemical weapons convention, which aims to eliminate an entire category of weapons of mass destruction.
The Palestinians angered Israel when they became a state-party to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2015.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki this week met with the ICC chief prosecutor to push for an investigation of Israeli war crimes after more than 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in Gaza, the worst violence since the 2014 war.
The United Nations granted Palestine non-member observer state status in 2012, but an upgrade to full membership would require unanimous backing from the Security Council — an unlikely outcome, given the near-certainty of a US veto.
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