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Dr Nabeel Shaath calls on Ireland to support UN recognition of Palestine at a DCU seminar

Dr Nabeel Shaath
Pictured here are (L-R): Dr Nabeel Shaath, Professor Ronnie Munck, Mr Patrick Kinsella (Head of the School of Communications) and Dr John Doyle (School of Law and Government).

A senior figure in the Palestinian Authority has urged Ireland to recognise Palestinian statehood in a forthcoming vote at the United Nations. He made the comments at a seminar at Dublin City University on Tuesday 12 July 2011.

Dr Nabeel Shaath, the Authority's Commissioner of International Relations, said that Ireland was very close to the heart of all Palestinians, as a small European country that had had similar experiences. Due to the historical affinity between the two, and the previous role Ireland had played in promoting the Palestinian cause, expectations of Ireland in Palestine were very high. 'I shiver at the possibility that Ireland will not recognise Palestine,' he said.

The Palestinians are currently seeking a vote to allow them full UN membership, which would constitute international recognition of statehood. Dr Shaath pointed out that Ireland had sought international recognition as a state in 1919, at a time before it had control of its own territory. The United States, Kosovo, Slovenia and Israel itself also had sought such recognition without having met this requirement.

Referring to Ireland's current dependence on IMF and European funding, he said, "We have a new government which inherits a difficult financial situation and I understand that that requires payment of a political price. My hope is that Palestinians will not pay the price of that financial support".

Dr Shaath said that the hopes of his people now were pinned on the process of seeking recognition of statehood. He said that Palestinians already had 'paid the sacrifice in blood' but also in recent years had built the institutions of the state. "Now we need to be recognised as a state, with protected borders", he said. He added that the Palestinian strategy to seek international recognition at the UN came after 20 years of non-violence and attempts to negotiate with Israel during which conditions for Palestinians living under occupation had worsened. Meanwhile, the strategic alliance between the US and Israel had been capable of defying international law and agreements.

Dr Shaath, who was the Palestinian Authority's chief negotiator at the peace talks between 1992 and 1995, said that Palestinians needed hope. "If you want to pursue non-violent methods, you have to convince people that they work. We need pressure on the occupier. Everything else has failed. Mr Obama has failed", he said.

Europe, he said, should be more assertive in relation to its own interests in the Palestinian question. Standing up and playing a role in supporting Palestine would be good for Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Similarly, Ireland would cement its already strong competitive advantage in the Arab world as a recognised friend of the Arab and Palestinian people. If Ireland were to support UN membership for the Palestinian state, "that would be a step that the Palestinian people will cheer", he said.

The seminar was hosted by the School of Law and Government and the School of Communications at DCU.