In first, ‘Palestine’ to head bloc of 134 nations at UN
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In first, ‘Palestine’ to head bloc of 134 nations at UN

Palestinians to preside over the Group of 77, largest's coalition of developing nations; Israeli envoy laments it will become 'a platform for spreading lies and incitement'

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

The Palestinian flag is raised outside UN Headquarters in New York during the 70th session of the UN General Assembly on September 30, 2015 (Raphael Ahren)
The Palestinian flag is raised outside UN Headquarters in New York during the 70th session of the UN General Assembly on September 30, 2015 (Raphael Ahren)

The “State of Palestine” will reportedly preside next year over the largest bloc of developing nations at the United Nations.

Palestine — which is not a member state of the UN but has observer state status — was chosen to head the so-called Group of 77, a consortium now consisting of 134 nations that often speaks in one voice at the UN General Assembly, starting January 1, 2019, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

“We will be negotiating on behalf of 135 countries,” Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour told the paper, including his own delegation in the count.

The group was originally founded in 1964 with 77 countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Thailand and India. Over the years it has grown to include countries such as South Africa, Qatar, Cuba, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Singapore, and Angola. It represents some 80 percent of the world’s population.

Egypt currently holds the group’s presidency until December 31.

The Foreign Ministry in Israel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon expressed misgivings about the move.

“The goal of the Group of 77 originally was to facilitate the economic advancement of underdeveloped nations,” he told The Times of Israel. “It is unfortunate that it will now become a platform for spreading lies and incitement. This will not promote the G-77’s goals, and encourages the Palestinians to not engage in negotiations for peace.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas raises the Palestinian flag as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon looks on during a ceremony in the rose garden of the UN’s New York headquarters, September 30, 2015. (AFP PHOTO/TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

The UN General Assembly in 2012 voted overwhelmingly in favor of granting Palestine “non-state observer status.” Three years later, the GA also voted to allow the Palestinian flag to be raised outside the UN’s iconic building on New York’s East River.

Israel and the US were among the few countries opposing these moves, arguing that unilateral moves ostensibly advancing Palestinian statehood were counterproductive to efforts to reach a lasting peace agreement.

Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador, hailed the fact that his delegation will soon preside over one of the largest blocs as a diplomatic success.

“They’re still denying we are a state,” Mansour said, referring to Israel and the US. “We walk like a state. We quack like a state. Therefore we are a state.”

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