With a month to go before the April 29 deadline he set eight months ago, Kerry’s Mideast peace initiative is teetering on a cliff-edge. The P.A. accuses Israel of reneging of an agreement to release a fourth group of prisoners by the end of March; Israel accuses Abbas of refusing to commit to continue negotiating beyond the late April deadline, and of reneging on an agreement not to resume his campaign for U.N. recognition while talks were underway.
On Tuesday Abbas staged an event in Ramallah – covered live on Palestinian television – to sign letters of accession by the “State of Palestine” to 15 international treaties. The applications would be made “immediately,” he said.
At a press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels later that day, Kerry was asked about Abbas’ decision.
“He agreed he wouldn’t go to the U.N. until the end of April, and he’s going – he’s going to go now,” a wire service reporter said. “So there seems to be a lot of disappointment.”
“No he’s not,” Kerry interjected. “He is not. Let me make it absolutely clear: None of the agencies that President Abbas signed tonight involve the U.N. None of them.”
“And President Abbas has given his word to me that he will keep his agreement and that he intends to negotiate through the end of the month of April,” he added.
Of the 15 treaties Abbas has formerly applied to join, 13 are United Nations treaties, with the U.N. secretary-general serving as depository (full list below). The remaining two – the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Hague Convention on the customs of war – are overseen by the Swiss government and Dutch foreign ministry respectively.
Despite Abbas’ pledge to Kerry to “keep his agreement,” P.A. foreign minister Riyad al-Malki said Wednesday he had lodged the letters of accession with the U.N.’s point man in the Middle East, special envoy Robert Serry, and the Dutch and Swiss governments.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman Farhan Haq confirmed Thursday that Serry had forwarded the 13 U.N. treaty applications to headquarters in New York.
“We will now be reviewing them to consider the next appropriate steps,” he said. “Whenever any state deposits these types of letters, they need to be reviewed by our Office for Legal Affairs and then they go over them and determine certain things about whether they constitute accession to the relevant conventions.”
Haq added he could not say how long that would take, but that the lawyers had as much time as they needed for the process.
Under U.S. law, any U.N. agency “which accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states” may not receive U.S. funding. Under that provision, the administration was compelled to defund the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization after it became the first U.N. agency to admit ‘Palestine’ in late 2011.
P.A. Ambassador to the U.N. Ibrahim Khraishi told the Palestinian news agency Ma’an Wednesday that the P.A. could apply to join up to 550 international treaties and conventions, including the International Criminal Court statute.
Since those conventions don’t rely on U.S. funding like U.N. agencies do, he said, their “members will not be financially blackmailed.”
Asked Thursday whether Abbas’ applications to join the treaties could trigger a funding cutoff to U.N. agencies associated with the various conventions, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf replied, “That’s been a little bit of a complicated question that our folks are looking at. I don’t have an answer for you yet on that.”
Harf said both the Israelis and Palestinians had “done some unhelpful things and we think both sides need to make some tough choices.”
The 13 U.N. treaties Abbas has applied to join are: Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations; Vienna Convention on Consular Relations; Convention on the Rights of the Child; International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties; Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide; Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; U.N. Convention against Corruption; International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.