Foreign minister backs ‘Palestine’

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Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has thanked Norway and all the other nations that supported the Palestinians’ successful bid for upgraded status at the United Nations on Thursday. On Friday, Norway’s foreign minister said he and other government officials would start referring to the Palestinian areas as, simply, “Palestine.”

When the voting was over in the UN’s General Assembly, 138 countries including Norway had voted in favour of granting the Palestinians’ request that they become a non-member observer state at the UN. The request was backed by both the Palestinians’ Fatah organization led by President Mahmoud Abbas on the West Bank and the Hamas organization in Gaza.

Another 41 member nations of the UN chose not to vote including Germany, Great Britain and Australia, while only nine countries voted against the request, including Israel, Canada, the Czech Republic, Panama, Palau, Nauru, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and the US.

Support ‘meant a lot’
Fayyad told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that Norway’s support and involvement in the Mideast peace process has “meant a lot,” not least for the Palestinian cause. He thanked Norway’s support over many years but also refused to criticize the US for voting against the Palestinians’ upgraded status at the UN. “The US wants the framework to be (direct) peace talks,” Fayyad told NRK. “We don’t disagree, but we also think we must use the possibilities we have to further our cause. The UN is the international forum we have, with the legal rights that go along with it.”

Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide called the Palestinians’ new upgraded status “a milestone” and welcomed “the overwhelming support the Palestinans have received” in the UN General Assembly. Eide was also happy that all the Nordic countries and a majority of EU countries had voted in favour of the resolution.

“It demonstrates the international community’s clear support for the Palestinian state-building project and a future Palestinian state,” Eide said.

Now simply ‘Palestine’
On Friday, Eide told NRK that he and other Norwegian government officials would be “changing the language” they use when referring to the Palestinian areas, opting now to simply call them “Palestine.” Even though both he and his predecessor, Jonas Gahr Støre, often had used the word “Palestine” in conversation, an official at the Foreign Ministry had told newspaper Aftenposten earlier on Friday that it wouldn’t be using the name “Palestine” since it’s not officially recognized as a state.

Eide altered that position, while still confirming that Norway hasn’t recognized the West Bank and Gaza as a single state. That, he said, must emerge during peace talks aimed at a two-state solution for both the Palestinians and Israel.

He believes this week’s UN vote, though, is a step in that direction and that it therefore is reasonable to refer to the Palestinian areas as “Palestine.” NRK officials and other Norwegian media reported they likely would begin to do the same.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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