Friday, October 2, 2009

PLO 'pulls backing for Gaza report'

Al Jazeera understands that the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) is to defer its endorsement of the UN Goldstone report on the Gaza war.

Al Jazeera's Mike Hanna, reporting from Geneva where the UN Human Rights Council is to meet on Friday, said the decision not to endorse the report condemning Israel's conduct in the three-week war was surprising and a major about turn.

The Palestinian Authority had endorsed the Goldstone report when it was released last month, and on Tuesday the Palestinian representative speaking as an observer at the council had said the report "was a professional, unbiased report and related to facts that could not be denied".

A draft resolution is still expected to be introduced at council on Friday by a number of countries on behalf of the Palestinians – who do not have the power to do so - but it remains to be seen how the sponsors respond to the PLO's move.

In the debate of the draft on Tuesday the wording of the resolution was contested principally by the US, the EU and France, and Israeli media reported that the decision to defer the endorsement follows pressure from Washington.

On Thursday, Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said any action to endorse the report would strike a fatal blow to the stalled so-called peace process between Israelis and the Palestinians.

PLO sources told Al Jazeera's Nour Odeh in Ramallah in the West Bank, that there were plans to push for a postponement on the endorsement of the Goldstone report to March, pending a legal review of the findings.

One main reservation the Palestinians have is that the report endorsed the Israeli war on Gaza early this year as a legitimate act of self-defence and not an act of aggression, our correspondent said.

Another concern is the accusations against Hamas and other Palestinian factions of having possibly committed war crimes by launching rockets against the civilian population in Israel.

Endorsing the report would mean endorsing the justification for the Israeli war and the war crimes allegations against Hamas.

The Palestinian side sees these as having legal ramifications which could hamper national efforts to form a unity government with Hamas.

Egypt said on Thursday that it would invite rival Palestinian factions Fatah - which forms the bulk of the PLO - and Hamas to Cairo in late October for a final round of talks that it believes will result in a signed reconciliation agreement.

Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, and Fatah, which leads a separate, Western-backed government in the West Bank, have been bitterly divided since internal fighting more than two years ago.

Egypt has been trying for months to broker such a deal, and Hamas's exiled leader, Khaled Mashaal, said this week that his group had agreed to the reconciliation proposal.

Source: Al Jazeera (English)

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