UN General Assembly approves Palestine as head of largest bloc of developing countries

Mahmoud Abbas addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, Sept. 22, 2016. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, Sept. 22, 2016. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

(JTA) – The United Nations General Assembly voted to approve the observer state of Palestine as the head of the largest bloc of developing countries.

Some 146 countries on Tuesday voted in favor of Palestine to head the Group of 77. Three countries – Israel, the United States and Australia – voted against, and 15 countries abstained. Twenty-nine countries did not vote.

The 15 nations that abstained were: Andorra, Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Honduras, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Monaco, Poland, Slovakia and Tuvalu.

The G-77 is made up of 134 member states, though it originally started with 77. It was designed to promote its members’ economic advancement and uses its size to leverage its negotiating capacity. The coalition represents at least 80 percent of the world’s population. China also participates in the G-77, though it does not consider itself to be a member.

Palestine was elevated to the status of non-member observer state in in the General Assembly, the same status given to the Vatican, in 2012. An observer state cannot vote on General Assembly resolutions, and cannot speak at meetings until after members, but is eligible for membership in other UN bodies.  The G-77 has recognized Palestine as a member since 1976.

The resolution passed on Tuesday in the UN General Assembly, which was put forward by current G-77 head Egypt, will allow Palestine to function like a membership when acting on behalf of the G-77, including making statements, and submitting and cosponsoring proposals.

Palestine will take over as head of the G-77 on Jan. 1, 2019, and lead for one year.

“Today’s UN mistake undermines the prospects for peace by encouraging the illusion held by some Palestinian leaders that they can advance their goals without direct peace negotiations,” The outgoing U.S. ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said in a statement following the vote.

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