The Palestinian flag has flown at the United Nations for the first time, as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signals an end to accords with Israel.
After 119 countries in the UN General Assembly voted in favour, the flag was raised in the rose garden at the UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday afternoon.
Israel, the United States and Australia were among only eight countries to vote against the raising of the Palestinian flag, with Israel describing the move as a “blatant attempt to hijack the UN”. Another forty five countries abstained.
However, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his support during a speech at Wednesday’s ceremony.
“The symbolism of raising your flag at the United Nations reflects the commitment of the Palestinian Authority to pursue the long-held dream of the Palestinian people for their own State,” he said. “It also symbolises the long-standing commitment of the United Nations to support Palestinian aspirations.”
In a Huffington Post op-ed on Tuesday, Mr Abbas expressed his hope that the flag raising would be a step towards Palestinian statehood.
“The sense of pride among the Palestinian people was overwhelming the day the world voted in favor of this landmark initiative,” he said. “I am certain that the day our flag rises among the flags of the community of nations will also be a most emotional and proud day.”
However, in a speech before the General Assembly on Wednesday, Mr Abbas lashed out at Israel, warning that the PA may no longer abide by the 1993 Oslo Accords between Palestine and Israel, which he claims are continually violated.
“As long as Israel refuses to cease settlement activities and to release of the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners in accordance with our agreements, they leave us no choice but to insist that we will not remain the only ones committed to the implementation of these agreements,” he said. “We therefore declare that we cannot continue to be bound by these agreements and that Israel must assume all of its responsibilities as an occupying power.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has condemned the speech, saying, “Abu Mazen’s speech was deceitful and encourages incitement and lawlessness in the Middle East.”
“We expect and call on the [Palestinian] Authority and its leader to act responsibly and accede to the proposal of the Prime Minister of Israel and enter into direct negotiations with Israel without preconditions,” he said.
“The fact that he – time and again – has refused to do so is the best possible proof of the fact he does not intend to reach a peace agreement.”
Palestine has been a non-member observer state of the UN since 2012, a status it shares with the Vatican City. – Jake Nelson
Top photo of the Palestinian flag being raised at the UN from the BBC coverage of the event.