A council of European parliaments granted the Palestinian National Council "Partner for Democracy" status on Tuesday, only the second time the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has granted the position, which is reserved for parliaments from regions adjacent the Council of Europe.
The "Partner for Democracy" status allows Palestinian elected representatives to speak before the PACE assembly and most of its committees, and propose subjects for debate, and yet does not allow PA officials to vote.
In return, a PACE statement indicated, the Palestinian National Council pledged to pursue the "values upheld by the Council of Europe, hold free and fair elections and work towards abolishing the death penalty, among other commitments."
In addition, the PNC's partial membership in PACE would also mean that the assembly could monitor "concluding negotiations for a government of national unity, and making the Palestinian National Council a democratically-elected body."
"Other points include refraining from violence, rejecting terrorism, recognizing the right of Israel to exist and freeing the soldier Gilad Shalit. The Assembly will review progress on these points within two years," the PACE statement said.
The new "Partner for Democracy," which was given until now only to the Moroccan parliament in June of this year, is intended, PACE said, for parliaments from regions neighboring the Council of Europe who wish to benefit from the Assembly’s experience of democracy-building and to debate common challenges.
Speaking at the PACE assembly on Tuesday, Speaker of the Palestinian National Council Salim Al-Za’noon said the decision was “historic,” adding that it could contribute to establishing peace in the region.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last month formally applied to the United Nations for full membership, which would have granted the Palestinians de facto statehood. A vote by UN Security Council on a such resolution, which the U.S. has said it will veto, has yet to take place.
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