AFRICANGLOBE – The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) representative to the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) blasted Nigeria on Wednesday over its abstention during a UN vote on Palestinian statehood on Tuesday.
In a statement quoted by the Ma’an news agency, the representative Muhannad al-Akluk, said Nigeria’s move was a “big disappointment”, adding that voting against “Palestine” despite being a member of the OIC was a “clear contradiction”.
He also claimed that Nigeria’s abstention violated numerous resolutions passed at the Islamic organisation’s summits. The PA’s resolution calling for Israel to withdraw from Judea and Samaria by 2017 was defeated at the UN Security Council when it received eight votes, one short of the number required to pass it.
Reports said it was Nigeria which made the difference in the resolution failing to pass, as it had been expected, to vote in favour but then decided to abstain.
Al-Akluk added in his statement that the United States’ stand against the “Palestinian cause” and the resolution were not a surprise, but that Nigeria’s abstention from voting was a “shock” and a disappointment for Palestinian Arabs.
The representative also said in the statement that such attitude stood in opposition to the Islamic context and must be dealt with inside the OIC, highlighting the “unacceptable” contradiction that a member state of the group abstained from voting while European states voted in favour of the resolution.
Nigeria maintains close ties with Israel. President Goodluck Jonathan visited Israel twice last year, marking the first time that a Nigerian president visited the Jewish state.
During the last visit in October, Nigeria and Israel signed an agreement allowing direct air travel between both countries. Several months ago, Israel sent two anti-terror experts to Nigeria to join the search for a group of schoolgirls who were kidnapped by the Muslim terrorist group, Boko Haram.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Nigeria for its abstention at the vote. He also thanked Rwanda, another country that abstained.
In a pivotal foreign policy shift, Nigeria on Tuesday night had abstained from voting on a crucial United Nations Security Council resolution on Palestinian statehood.
Nigeria’s position marked a departure from the past when the country always voted in favour of Palestine and had always thrown its weight behind a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Foreign policy analysts who spoke on the issue on Wednesday said Nigeria’s change in policy may not be unconnected to the recent tangible assistance given by Israel in the war against Boko Haram in the North-east.
Israel, as opposed to the United States, Britain and other traditional Western allies, which have been engaged in semantics, has given Nigeria concrete assistance in the form of drones, arms, military advisers and training that has helped Nigerian troops in the push back against the insurgents in recent weeks.
The UN resolution had called for new talks on Palestinian statehood on the basis of territorial lines that existed before Israel’s occupation of the territories in 1967, and was the culmination of three months of campaigning by the Palestinians at the UN and had the backing of Arab states.
The Palestinians required nine votes from 15 permanent and non-permanent members of the UN Security Council. Nigeria is currently one of the 10 non-permanent members, with its tenure expiring in 2015. Chad and Rwanda are the other African members.
However, Palestine got eight votes, one vote short during the vote which took place on Tuesday night. The United States and Australia voted against the resolution, while Russia, China, France, Luxembourg, Jordan, Argentina, Chile and Chad voted for the resolution.
Nigeria, Britain, South Korea, Rwanda and Lithuania abstained. Nigeria’s role stood out because until shortly before the vote, diplomats had expected the resolution to get nine “yes” votes, with Nigeria believed to be in support.
But at the last minute, Nigeria’s UN envoy, Prof. Joy Ogwu, abstained from voting, echoing the position of the US that the ultimate path to peace between Israel and Palestine lies “in a negotiated solution”. Reacting to the outcome of the vote, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said he personally spoke to Jonathan and received his assurance of support.
“I would like to voice appreciation and thanks to the United States and Australia, and also special appreciation for the president of Rwanda, my friend Paul Kagame, and the president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan.
“I spoke with both of them. They told me and promised me, personally, that they would not support this resolution. They kept their word, and that’s what clinched this matter. I think this is very important for the state of Israel,” the PM said.
However, Palestinian officials who had lobbied Nigeria for months to back the vote and had received assurances from its officials, expressed shock at the change of heart.
Speaking on Wednesday, the Ambassador of the State of Palestine to Nigeria, Dr. Montaser Abu-Zeid, expressed surprise at Nigeria’s action.
Attempts to get the official position on why Nigeria changed her foreign policy on the Israeli-Palestine conflict proved unsuccessful, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Aminu Wali did not pick calls to his phone, neither did he respond to a text message on the issue.
However, a source in the foreign affairs ministry said Nigeria’s decision to abstain was “strategic at critical juncture for us, as we have been battling the insurgency for six years”.
He added, “The Israelis have offered us concrete assistance and we cannot turn our backs on them. However, we will continue to support Palestine as a long-standing ally and strengthen relations with both countries,” he said.
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