The state of Palestine has been elected as presiding country of the Group of 77, the biggest bloc of developing countries at the United Nations, a move that has irked Israel.
The Group of 77 was established in 1964 by 77 countries and was designed to promote their collective economic interests, as well as to enhance their joint negotiating capacity on all major international economic issues within the UN.
Over the years, the bloc has expanded to include 135 members today, which represents 80 percent of the world’s population. The bloc also speaks as one voice at the General Assembly.
Palestine will take over from the current presiding country Egypt in January 2019.
In a telephone interview with The New York Times, Palestine’s UN ambassador Riyad Mansour confirmed the move, and said Palestine “will be negotiating on behalf of 135 countries.”
The move is widely regarded a progressive on behalf of Palestine, which holds an observer non-member state status at the UN. However, Israel has already voiced its strong opposition.
“The goal of the Group of 77 originally was to facilitate the economic advancement of underdeveloped nations,” Israel’s ambassador, Danny Danon said in a statement to The New York Times.
“It is unfortunate that it will now become a platform for spreading lies and incitement. This will not promote the G-77’s goals, and encourages the Palestinians to not engage in negotiations for peace.”
Israel’s ally, the United States, raised the ire of the Palestinian Authority by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last December, resulting in the PA severing diplomatic relations with it.
The US has also recently cut funding to the UN Refugee and Relief Agency (UNRWA) which serves millions of Palestinians in refugee camps in the occupied territories and neighbouring countries.
Last month, the US pulled out of the UN Human Rights Council, citing anti-Israel bias.