Contrary to an assertion by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the 15 international treaties and conventions to which Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas applied for membership on Tuesday do include groups affiliated to the United Nations.
At a televised ceremony on Tuesday evening, Abbas signed letters seeking accession to the UN Convention against Corruption, the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and other UN treaties. (Read the full list of the treaties, conventions, etc., here.)
He indicated that he anticipated that membership would be smoothly granted.
On Wednesday morning, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki handed the letters to UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry and to representatives from Switzerland and the Netherlands.
“These treaties and conventions will help to protect and promote basic rights of the Palestinian people and will enable the State of Palestine to be a responsible actor on the international stage,” said Ashraf Khatib, a communications adviser for the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department. “These treaties are vital to continued Palestinian institutional building, good governance and the upholding of human rights, all of which form the basis for an independent and sovereign State of Palestine. Palestine will pursue this non-violent track, including all possible diplomatic venues, in a way which serves the best interests of its people and the cause of a just peace.”
On Tuesday, at a press conference in Brussels, Kerry had denied that any of the 15 agencies where Abbas applied are affiliated with the UN. He spoke amid suggestions that Abbas’s move was a breach of the understandings with the US and Israel under which peace talks were resumed last July.
“Let me make it absolutely clear: None of the agencies that President Abbas signed tonight involve the UN. None of them,” Kerry said. “And President Abbas has given his word to me that he will keep his agreement and that he intends to negotiate through the end of the month of April.”
Abbas applied to join treaties and conventions, as opposed to UN branches, agencies or programs, such as, for example UNESCO — the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — which admitted “Palestine” as a full member in 2011.
The 15 treaties and conventions the PA sought to join “are mostly conventions/minor agreements,” according to Grant Rumley, a visiting fellow at Mitvim – The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, where he focuses on Palestinian negotiation strategies. “Rights of the child, women’s rights, Vienna convention on treaties, 4th Geneva convention, etc. They all look primed to pressure Israel on the settlement construction front, but they are certainly not ‘silver bullets’ for the peace process, like the ICC [International Criminal Court].”
Ashraf said Tuesday that the Palestinians would not walk away from the negotiations before their scheduled end of April deadline. “The PLO is committed to negotiations until the 29th April, as agreed,” Khatib stated.