(CNSNews.com) – The bloc of developing nations at the United Nations on Tuesday handed its presidency to the “State of Palestine,” with the U.N.’s top brass applauding the elevation of an entity that is neither a sovereign country nor a U.N. member-state, but which enjoys strong support across the world body.
“I congratulate the State of Palestine as it assumes the presidency of the Group of 77 and China for 2019,” said U.N. secretary-general Antonio Guterres, who together with General Assembly president María Fernanda Espinosa flanked Palestinian Authority (P.A.) chairman Mahmoud Abbas at the gavel-handover ceremony in New York.
“I welcome your excellency President Mahmoud Abbas and thank you for joining us today, as a clear demonstration of the strong commitment of the State of Palestine to an effective presidency of the Group of 77 and China,” Guterres said. His spokesman at a later press briefing called the move “historic.”
For her part, Espinosa called the Palestinian presidency of the G77 “a sign of the triumph of multilateralism, and a demonstration of how important is the role played by the most democratic and representative body here in the United Nations.”
Abbas’ mandate as “president of the State of Palestine” expired a decade ago, but no elections have been held since.
The U.S. and Israel last summer strongly opposed the decision by the G77 to hand its presidency to the Palestinians, and also opposed a General Assembly resolution in October giving the Palestinian observer mission the powers of a member-state, temporarily, to facilitate its presidency. The resolution passed overwhelmingly, with only the U.S., Israel and Australia voting “no.”
“Embarrassing for the UN membership that they would elect a non-member to represent and chair all of the G77 countries,” former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley tweeted on Tuesday. “This sort of coddling of the Palestinians is another way to keep them from coming to the negotiating table and is the reason the UN is not taken seriously.”
Although still using the name G77, the group today comprises 134 members – more than two-thirds of the membership of the General Assembly. They include seven of the world’s ten most populous nations.
Abbas intends to use the G77 presidency to promote his long-stymied bid for full membership of bodies across the U.N. system.
In his statement Tuesday he said the Palestinians “suffer under the yoke of foreign occupation.”
“Israel’s continued colonization and occupation of the state of Palestine undermines our development and capacity for cooperation and coordination and obstructs cohesive future development for all peoples of the region,” he charged.
Outside U.N. headquarters, demonstrators protested against Abbas’ presence and the G77 presidency decision. They included Stuart Force, the father of Taylor Force, a U.S. Army veteran and Vanderbilt student who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian in Jaffa during a 2016 MBA study trip.
Abbas’ Fatah organization hailed the attacker – who was shot dead after killing Force and wounding ten other people – as a “heroic martyr” and his family received the “martyr’s” stipend.
A spending bill signed into law by President Trump last March included the Taylor Force Act, a bipartisan measure that withholds U.S. funding to the P.A. until the administration certifies that the payment of stipends to the families of convicted and dead terrorists is stopped.