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Overwhelming vote in favour of flying Palestine flag at UN

The move will 'give our people some hope that the international community is still supporting the independence of the state of Palestine'
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon (AFP)

The United Nations overwhelmingly approved raising the flag of Palestine at its headquarters in New York in a symbolic move highlighting Palestinian aspirations for statehood.

Reuters reported that there were 119 votes in favour out of 193 UN members.

Palestinian representative to the UN, Riyad Mansour, responded to the vote, saying, "It is a symbolic thing, but another step to solidify the pillars of the state of Palestine in the international arena,” according to Al-Jazeera.

The UN has given a window of 20 days to have the flag raised, during which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will visit on 30 September.

Members of the Palestinian team expressed hope that the move would "give our people some hope that the international community is still supporting the independence of the state of Palestine".

The push to have even a symbolic presence through the flag had gained momentum, especially after Israel’s deadly 51-day war on Gaza in 2014 that left thousands of civilians dead and wounded.

"Things are bleak, gloomy, the political process is dead, Gaza is being suffocated. This flag resolution is like the small light of a candle to keep hope alive for the Palestinian people,” Al-Jazeera quoted Mansour as saying.

Israeli leaders have expressed strong opposition, calling the move “meaningless” and “insignificant”.  Israeli diplomat Ron Prosor branded the move “a blatant attempt to hijack the UN”.

Prosor had asked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and General Assembly President Ron Kutesa to block the move, which would break with the UN practice of flying only the flags of member states.

The United States has also voiced its opposition to the move, with US state department spokesman Mark Toner calling it a "counterproductive" attempt to pursue statehood claims outside of a negotiated settlement.

The General Assembly upgraded the status of the Palestinians to that of non-member observer state in 2012.