3 December 2012

Liberia Boycotts Vote On Palestine

When the United Nations General Assembly voted last Friday to admit Palestine as a "non-member observer state", Liberia was reported to have been conspicuously absent. Palestine won a vote of 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions.

The US, Israel, Czech Republic, Canada, and Palau were amongst the countries that voted against. The United Kingdom and Germany abstained.

Interestingly, no vote is recorded for Liberia. So what went wrong? Did the Liberian delegation stage a boycott or simply showed lack of interest in the vote or does Liberia lack a voice on crucial international issues at the UN?

Since last Friday's vote count at the UN which eventually gave Palestine a "non-member observer state", there has been no comment by the Liberian government on the issue.

According to reports, forty nations also abstained from the process. However, there's no indication that Liberia abstained, and there's also no vote recorded for Liberia.

According to reports, Liberia, Equatorial Guinea and Madagascar are the three African countries that were reportedly absent from the process.

According to history, 33 countries including Liberia cast the "Yes" vote for Israel to become a state on 14 May 1948. Not only did Liberia cast the "Yes" vote for Israel to become a state, but did cast the tie-breaking vote at the UN to create the state of Israel. Therefore, Liberia, Israel relations has historical significance.

However, sources hinted this paper that looking at the voting record from the UN headquarters in New York, it was clear that Liberia did not cast a vote in this historic process.

No reason has been provided but there are probabilities that the Liberian Ambassador at the UN was absent from the meeting or perhaps Liberia could not vote due to its failure settle dues to the world body.

In a statement following the Palestine Vote, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said there was an urgent need for member states to step up efforts in getting the Middle East peace process back on track; urging Israelis and Palestinians to show courageous leadership to reach a two-State solution.

"I call on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to show vision and determination. I also urge the international community to help them forge a credible political path that will meet the legitimate aspirations of both sides," Mr. Ban stressed.

American Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice immediately criticized the vote, and said it was "counterproductive" and "places further obstacles in the path of peace."

Explaining its vote of abstention to the UNGA Ambassador Peter Wittig said Germany shares the goal of a Palestinian state and has worked towards it for years through its support for the state-building efforts by the Palestinian Authority. But its vote means that it supports the idea that a Palestinian state can only be achieved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

The German Ambassador to the UN said Germany is concerned that the granting of an observer status to Palestine might lead to further hardening of positions instead of improving chances of a two-state solution through direct negotiations.

"It is our expectation that the Palestinian leadership will not undertake unilateral steps on the basis of this resolution that would deepen the conflict and move us further away from a peaceful settlement," Wittig said.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague following the U.K's vote of abstention said the U.K believes that the prospects for a swift return to negotiations on a two state solution is the only way to create a Palestinian state on the ground.

"In particular, we called on President Abbas to set out a willingness to return to negotiations without preconditions, and to signal that the Palestinians would not immediately seek action in the International Criminal Court, which would be likely to make a return to negotiations impossible," he said.

In 1947 the General Assembly adopted a resolution partitioning then-mandated Palestine into two States, one Jewish and one Arab.

The Israelis and Palestinians have yet to resume direct negotiations since talks stalled in September 2010, after Israel refused to extend its freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Recently, tension increased between the two countries with rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza and Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. The eight days of violence left an estimated 158 Palestinians dead, including 103 civilians, and approximately 1,269 injured. Six Israelis - four civilians and two soldiers - were reportedly killed by Palestinian rocket fire and 224 Israelis were injured, the vast majority civilians.

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