What's In Blue

Meeting of the Admission of New Members Committee

Tomorrow (Thursday, 3 November) the Council’s standing Committee on Admission of New Members will hold a formal meeting at permanent representative level on Palestine’s application for UN membership (unlike Council formal meetings, Council Committee formal meetings are not public). Following Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ submission of the application on 23 September, the Security Council referred the matter to the Committee on 28 September. The Committee then met approximately five times to discuss the issue.

At tomorrow’s meeting members will apparently express their views on whether Palestine meets the requirements for membership. It seems the Secretariat will then draft a report of the discussion reflecting members’ positions. However, it seems the report will not include a specific recommendation either for or against Palestine’s admission as a UN member. The report is expected to be reviewed at the next formal Committee meeting scheduled for 11 November. If Committee members accept the report, it appears likely that it will be transmitted to the Council as a public document.

It seems the approach to move the application from the Committee to the Council without a recommendation was a Russian suggestion that had US agreement. Apparently this proposal satisfied those who wanted to avoid a US veto while keeping Ramallah engaged in the peace process. The proposal also addressed the concern by some Council members about the lack of transparency in the Committee’s proceedings. (Previous meetings had been mostly informal and at expert level with no records by the Secretariat.) It seems that this approach also satisfied the Council’s desire to avoid any action which might pre-empt Quartet initiatives on restarting direct negotiations.

Council members appear to be treading carefully with the application. During the Council’s 24 October open debate on the Middle East, Brazil, China, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, Russia and South Africa signalled support for Palestine’s application. Although it did not do so in the debate it seems that Gabon has also indicated support. The rest of the Council members focused on prospects for a negotiated solution in their statements.

At this stage it is still unclear what, if any, action the Council will take on Palestine’s application. Looking at past precedents, the Council could vote on the application and if it is rejected it would then need to send a report to the General Assembly on its decision not to admit Palestine as a member. The General Assembly could then ask the Council to reconsider its decision. It could also vote to postpone consideration of the application. (Since membership is a substantive issue, at least nine of the fifteen members of the Council, with no permanent members casting a veto, must agree to the admission of the new state.) It appears that some members may be inclined to simply receive the report from the Committee but take no further action.

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