Palestine was elected to chair the third Meeting of States Parties to the UNESCO 1970 Convention on Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property for the first time earlier this week.
Palestine became the 195th full member of UNESCO in 2011 with the support of a large majority of countries.
Chairing a meeting of nearly 130 state parties has “both symbolic and practical” significance for Palestine, Mounir Anastas, deputy ambassador of Palestine to UNESCO, told the Anadolu Agency.
According to Anastas, the meeting that mainly aims to recover embezzled cultural property is a significant legal tool for Palestine that saw its own property “illegally exported or even stolen”, particularly because of Israel’s partial occupation of the West Bank.
“As you see, Israel is not among the states parties to attend the meeting, which will offer Palestine a legal framework to seek its rights,” Anastas said.
Speaking about the process that led to the election of the Palestinian delegation to chair the meeting, Anastas said the initiative made by the Arab countries was “fully supported by Turkey”.
The Turkish delegation, which currently holds the presidency of the regional bloc of “Western European and Other States” in the UN, was consulted as a national delegation and chair of its voting group, Anastas said.
As for the reaction of the other states members, Anastas said the delegation received “a lot of positive feedback”.
“Even states that had voted against the recognition of Palestine as a full member state to UNESCO, like Canada and Germany, congratulated us, except the United States.”
Anastas was optimistic about the possibility of chairing another UN meeting.
“We are here to practice our membership,” he said.
UNESCO is currently the only UN agency that recognises Palestine as a full member state.