Palestinian flag raised at UNESCO headquarters

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By S Kumar
Date  14 Dec 2011

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has symbolically hoisted the Palestinian flag at the headquarters of the UN cultural agency in Paris. He called membership in UNESCO the first step to international recognition for Palestine.

And UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and 50 other diplomatic guests attended the ceremony.

Amid biting winds and pouring rain, the flag was raised to the sounds of the Palestinian national anthem.

The UNESCO Director-General welcomed Palestine as a new member of the organization, saying it is a chance for world peace and solidarity.

Irina Bokova said, "This is why I dream of joint protection of world heritage by Israel and Palestine, I dream of joint educational text books on the history of shared ties to the land where Israelis and Palestinians live. This is the promise held before us today."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas noted UNESCO is the first UN organization to recognize the Palestinian State, and he said Palestine will further enhance cooperation with UNESCO on education, science and culture.

Mahmoud Abbas said, "We hope this will bode well for Palestine becoming a member of other international institutions. We hope that this will be of good auspices, we know the noble ambitions of UNESCO in terms of peace, education, culture and science. And our admission today is a tremendous source of pride for us."

The UNESCO vote was a diplomatic victory for Abbas, but the move was opposed by Israel and the United States.

Israel and its main ally the United States insist that only a peace treaty can establish a universally recognised Palestinian state. But the Palestinians say they have been patient through 20 years of futile talks.

Talks collapsed more than a year ago over continued Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank and in East Jerusalem, which was annexed by Israel after a 1967 war in a move not recognised internationally.

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