Palestinians protest US visa denial to experts to come to UN

July 18, 2018
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Palestinian children line up at the start of the new school year, in the West Bank Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar, Monday, July 16, 2018. The Palestinian ministry of education has decided to start the school-year early in the village in that is slated for demolition. The ministry says it's trying to pre-empt any Israeli move by starting school early for 170 elementary students in Khan al-Ahmar and four nearby Bedouin communities. AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Palestinians are protesting the U.S. refusal to grant visas to six experts from the prime minister’s office to come to the United Nations to present a report on Palestinian implementation of U.N. goals for 2030.

The Palestinian U.N. ambassador, Riyad Mansour, told two reporters Wednesday that Israel “complicated the matter” by refusing to allow several of the experts to travel from Ramallah to Jerusalem where the U.S. Consulate is located to check on their visas.

“We condemn this action,” Mansour said.

He said it violates the U.N. agreement with the United States as host country of the world organization, which requires the U.S. to facilitate U.N. work and allow delegates to attend U.N. meetings.

Mansour said he plans to send a letter of protest to the General Assembly committee dealing with host country relations.

The U.S. Mission said it was looking into the complaint. Israel’s U.N. Mission did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Since the experts couldn’t attend the high-level meeting taking place this week at U.N. headquarters, Mansour said he and his team “were able to improvise” and presented the Palestinian report on Tuesday. He said it “received a long applause from the participants.”

Mansour said he started the presentation by “condemning the fact that they were denied visas, and the work of our delegation was obstructed in violation of the headquarters agreement.”

The high-level meeting is hearing what nearly 50 countries are doing to implement the U.N. goals to combat poverty, promote development and gender equality, and preserve the environment by 2030.

The General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in November 2012 to upgrade the Palestinians’ status from a U.N. observer to a non-voting observer state, enabling it to make a voluntary report.

Mansour said that although the Palestinians are trying their best to fulfill the different U.N. goals by 2030, “the overriding issue influencing our effort to accomplish these objectives is the negative effect of occupation” by Israel.

In spite of that, he said, “we almost have 100 percent of education for our kids, our illiteracy is close to zero, there’s improvement in the medical field, but there’s need and challenges.”

Mansour said the Palestinians need more hospitals, more schools in east Jerusalem and elsewhere, and more housing.

“In terms of food security, we don’t have people who are starving although 1.2 million of the population in the Gaza Strip rely on food program assistance and help from UNRWA,” which is facing a funding crisis after major U.S. cuts.

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