News / Middle East

UN Assembly to Focus on Arab Spring, Palestinian Statehood

Next week, world leaders will convene in New York for their annual meeting at the United Nations.  Much has changed since they met there last September, including the unexpected redrawing of the political landscape in the Middle East and the breakdown of peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis. These issues are likely to dominate the week-long meeting.

The most talked-about subject here will likely be the pro-democracy movement that began in North Africa and swept across the Middle East all the way to Yemen.

In March, after dozens of pro-democracy protesters were killed in his country, former Yemeni U.N. Ambassador Abdullah Alsaidi resigned his post.  He is now a senior fellow with the independent International Peace Institute in New York. He says these countries will require international support to smooth their transition to democracy.

“Some countries will need economic assistance; some might not need economic assistance because they have oil wealth -- like the Libyans.  The Syrians and the Yemenis will eventually need economic help.  But they will also need political support.  They will need to help these people in terms of the transformation from dictatorial regimes to democracies,” Alsaidi said.

Last year, U.S. President Barack Obama told the General Assembly he hoped to see a Palestinian state among their ranks by this September.

“Those of us who are friends of Israel must understand the true security for the Jewish state requires an independent Palestine, one that allows the Palestinian people to live with dignity and opportunity,” Mr. Obama said.

But renewed Israeli settlement expansion derailed peace talks and the progress President Obama hoped for.  Now, the Palestinians say they may seek enhanced recognition or even full membership at the United Nations.  But State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says Washington will block such a move if it comes to the U.N. Security Council.

“It should not come as a shock to anyone in this room, that the U.S. opposes a move in New York by the Palestinians to try to establish a state that can only be achieved through negotiations.  So yes, if something comes to a vote in the U.N. Security Council the U.S. will veto,” Nuland said.

Nevertheless, IPI’s Alsaidi says the Palestinians will still pursue enhanced recognition at the United Nations because they have nothing to lose.

“First, for the Palestinians, there are no peace talks.  So when they say do not go to the U.N. because this will scuttle the peace process -- there is no peace process.  So the Palestinians have no alternative, in their view, other than to go to the United Nations and ask for recognition of the state of Palestine within the borders of June 4, 1967,” Alsaidi said.

Leaders will also be discussing other pressing international issues, including the famine in the Horn of Africa, the war in Afghanistan and nuclear non-proliferation.

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