The executive board of the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO on Wednesday voted in favor of a Palestinian state being given UNESCO membership, sources at the agency told DPA.
Forty of the 58 countries on the executive board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization voted in favor, four voted against and 14 abstained, the sources said.
In response to the news, Israels Foreign Ministry said that the Palestinian request for membership to UNESCO is a rejection of the path of negotiations, as well as of the Quartet plan to continue with the political process.
This move negates the efforts of the international community to advance the political process. A decision like this will not advance the Palestinians in their aspirations to statehood, the ministry said.
A simple majority is needed for the board to recommend that a non-UN member state be given membership of the Paris-based body.
The United States, Germany, Romania and Latvia voted against.
After that the application moves to the General Conference, where each of UNESCO's 193 member states is represented. A two-thirds majority of conference members is necessary for membership. The next meeting of the conference is scheduled for end October.
The push by Palestinians officials for membership of the agency comes two weeks after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas asked the United Nations to make a Palestinian state a full UN member.
That application, which Israel and the United States vehemently opposed, is pending at the UN Security Council. The US has vowed to use its veto in the council to oppose the application if it garners a two-thirds majority.
By seeking membership of UNESCO, the Palestinians are broadening their push for international recognition. UNESCO membership would also allow Palestinian leaders to apply for Palestinian sites to be declared UNESCO World Heritage sites.
UN members automatically have the right to become members of UNESCO.
At the moment, the Palestinians have only observer status at both the UN and UNESCO.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said Wednesday that UNESCO was not the "appropriate forum" for a vote on Palestinian membership. October's meeting of UNESCO members was "not the time" to discuss the issue, he added.
He did not say how France would vote if it did come to a vote in October. "The priority is the resumption of negotiations (between Palestinians and Israelis)," he said.
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