Palestinian flag raised at UN with historic ceremony

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas oversees historic flag ceremony at United Nations headquarters for first time despite Israeli resentment

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

People wave flags and signs during a "Free Palestine" protest in Times Square in the Manhattan borough, New York, September 18, 2015

The Palestinian flag has been raised at the United Nations for the first time in what the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described as "an emotional and proud day."

Abbas has declared, “I raise Palestinian flag at the UN in the name of my people. Today is a historic day for Palestinian people who have fought for independence and freedom,” during the ceremony.

Abbas also invoked the fighting spirit of his people for its flag saying that, “Today is a proud and honorable day for the Palestinian nationalism. We dedicate this honourable day to our prisoners, wounded, veterans, and martyrs who have sacrificed their lives in order to raise this flag to the flagpole.”

September 30th will be remembered and celebrated by the Palestinian people from now on as “the Day of Flag,” he added.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and other dignitaries from many countries accompanied Abbas during the flag ceremony.

"The sense of pride among the Palestinian people was overwhelming the day the world voted in favour of this landmark initiative," Abbas previously said, in an article written for the Huffington Post on Tuesday.

The motion to raise the Palestinian flag in front of UN buildings overwhelmingly passed by 119 votes in the General Assembly earlier in September.

The resolution gives 20 days for the measure to be implemented. Israel strongly opposed the motion, and voted against it alongside the United States. Israeli and Palestinian leaders are scheduled to speak before the UN this week.

Abbas has also addressed the General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will speak one day later.

Demonstrators place Palestinian flags as they celebrate after the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a Palestinian-drafted resolution to fly Palestine's flag at United Nations headquarters. September 11, 2015.

The successfully passed motion called for the flags of non-member observer states like the Palestinian territories to follow the flags of member states outside UN offices. That means the flag of the Vatican - another non-member observer state - will also be raised.

Abbas called for a “multilateral solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying "the UN must give my people more than hope."

The UK and 45 other nations abstained from the flag vote, many of which are members of the European Union. However France, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Ireland and Slovenia all voted in favour.

Israeli lobbying against the motion

Israel's UN representative Ron Prosor said that raising the Palestinian flag was a "blatant attempt to hijack the UN," rejecting any form of recognition of Palestinian statehood.

Israeli officials expressed dissatisfaction with the United Nations over the Palestinians' move to have their country's flag fly together with full member states at the UN headquarters, calling it “another misuse of the UN by the Palestinian Authority.”

Prosor wrote a letter of complaint to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and this year's President of the 193-nation General Assembly, Sam Kutesa, about the Palestinian attempt to have their flag raised.

Ron Prosor, Permanent Representative of Israel to the UN - Archive

"For 70 years the United Nations has raised only flags of full member states," Prosor said, adding that the Palestinians never held a single round of consultations on their resolution. He called it "another cynical misuse of the UN by the Palestinian Authority."

"Once again the Palestinians prefer to score easy and meaningless points at the UN, simply because they can," he said.

"It's time to unequivocally tell them: this is not the path to statehood, this is not the way for peace."

The UN General Assembly upgraded the status of the Palestinians to that of a "non-member observer state" in 2012, thus allowing them to take part in assembly debates.

Hopes for renewed peace talks

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced in early September that the a new ministerial meeting will be hosted in renewed efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The meeting was scheduled for September 30 during the annual high-level session of the General Assembly.

Peace talks have been stalled between Israel and Palestine since early 2014. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have been unable to agree on ground rules for negotiations.

Backed by the international community, Abbas says that the pre-1967 frontier - before Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem - should be the starting point for talks on the borders of a future Palestinian state. Netanyahu fully rejects that, along with ultraconservative Jewish parties like the Jewish Home.

Some 135 countries - many in Asia, Africa and Latin America - now recognise Palestine as a state.

TRTWorld and agencies