The United Nations is expected on Thursday to allow the Palestinians to raise their flag at its headquarters in New York in a symbolic move highlighting Palestinian aspirations for statehood.
The General Assembly will vote at 3 p.m. New York time on a draft resolution that diplomats say is almost certain to garner a majority in the 193-nation forum.
“It is a symbolic thing, but another step to solidify the pillars of the state of Palestine in the international arena,” said Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian representative to the UN.
The resolution would allow the flags of Palestine and the Holy See — both of which have non-member observer status — to be hoisted alongside those of the member states. However the Vatican said it has no intention of raising its flag in Turtle Bay anytime soon and opposed being included in the resolution.
If adopted, the UN would have 20 days to implement the move, which would be in time for a visit by president Mahmoud Abbas on September 30.
Mansour said the initiative had the potential to “give our people some hope that the international community is still supporting the independence of the state of Palestine.
“Things are bleak, gloomy, the political process is dead, Gaza is being suffocated. This flag resolution is like the small light of a candle to keep hope alive for the Palestinian people.”
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio and UN ambassador, told a news conference that the Holy See did not want its name mentioned in the resolution and did not co-sponsor it “because we have generally different priorities.”
Auza said the Holy See “didn’t have any intention to change the practice of the United Nations since its foundation, but we are not against the Palestinians asking for it.”
Diplomats says the only unknown is how broad support for the resolution will be, and in particular the attitude of the Europeans who have been divided over the initiative.
Both Israel and the United States have expressed strong opposition, with Israel’s ambassador to the body Ron Prosor slamming “a blatant attempt to hijack the UN.”
Prosor is expected to speak against the resolution Thursday, according to Israel Radio.
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner called it a “counterproductive” attempt to pursue statehood claims outside of a negotiated settlement.
Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are among world leaders converging on UN headquarters as of September 25 for an anti-poverty summit and the annual General Assembly debate.
Pope Francis is to make a much-anticipated address on September 25, but the Vatican’s Auza said the flag would “absolutely” not be raised before then.
However, he would not say whether the flag might fly at the UN in the future.
“That question is open,” Auza said. “I couldn’t say anything what the Holy See will do later on.”
The General Assembly upgraded the status of the Palestinians to that of non-member observer state in 2012.
The Vatican has diplomatic relations with both Israel and the Palestinians.
In 1965, the Vatican rejected some 2,000 years of Catholic teachings that Jews were collectively responsible for the death of Christ. And after decades of reluctance to recognize the Jewish state, Polish-born Pope John Paul II forged formal relations with Israel in 1993.
The Vatican officially recognized the state of Palestine only a few months ago, in May. With Pope Francis’ decision, the Holy See joined some 135 other countries — the vast majority of states in Asia, Africa and Latin America — that recognize Palestine.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report