According to European diplomatic sources, the two countries claim that letting the Palestinians into the council may jeopardize the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The main condition of the US-brokered negotiations was the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for a Palestinian promise not to join any UN organizations. Jean-Louis Barjol, Executive Director of the International Olive Council, connemts.
Olive oil has always been a key component of Palestine’s economy. Some experts stress that the International Olive Council is a technical organization and by joining it the Palestinians would not break the promise they made. The External Action Service also seems to favor Palestine’s move.
A German Foreign Ministry official said in a statement the final decision would be taken by the EU and not Germany alone, though the German stance on the issue is well known. Britain has so far withheld any comments.
The European Union’s member states are represented on the olive council by a single joint delegation. In case they fail to reach a universal agreement, the EU delegation will abstain from voting. The prospect of a diplomatic failure prompted Palestine to postpone the application prepared by the Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry this summer. Voting was scheduled for this week in Madrid.
How can you explain the latest Palestinian decision to freeze the application to the Olive Council?
In the International Olive Council in Madrid we had this week the annual session of the members, on the agenda there was request from Palestine to become a new member of IOC. When we opened the session the Ambassador of Palestine in Madrid attended the meeting and requested the Assembly to postpone the analysis of the request until the next session. So this is what will be done and the point was postponed from the agenda.
When is the next session and why do you think that they have made this decision?
The next ordinary session of the International Olive Council is once a year, so it will be next November 2014. The reason why it was postponed was not explained in the presentation. So we assumed that there were debates among the Palestinian authorities maybe with other IOC members but we don’t have any details regarding this point. What has to be cleared is that the International Olive Council is a technical body; we are not doing politics, we are only dealing with norms, with promotion, with technical assistance.
What were the chances that if Palestine had decided to apply for membership, what are the chances they would have received that membership this time around?
I have no element to answer your question, because I’m the Executive Director, I’m not the speculator on the intention of any member of the IOC, I’m sorry.
Olives are crucial for the Palestinian economy. It seems that Britain and Germany are opposed to Palestine’s membership. Why do you think they are opposed?
Germany and the UK are not direct members of the IOC. They are members of the EU. We do not have contact with the German authorities or the UK authorities. We only have contact with EU. EU was present at the table, and they took note of the request, of the Palestinian Ambassador in Madrid to postpone the decision.
What is your forecast? Will we see the EU countries coming to the universal agreement and alien Palestine into the IOC? When will that possibly happen in your opinion?
This is an internal issue for the EU, as the Executive Director of the international body where my only member is the EU, not the individual members of the EU, I have no element to answer your question because this question should be addressed to the EU. What I should insist on because I think this it the point you are not clearly aware of is the fact that Palestine is in a situation of observer in the IOC, it has always been accepted by all the IOC members to be an observer. It’s no their first time, it observed in the previous session. We used to have Palestinian observers attending our sessions.
I see. So basically what can you say about Palestine if they were to get membership, what would they actually do for Palestine? What advantages would that give them?
That would be for them mainly regarding technical assistance. Because with them we could not only give them list of experts what we are already doing nowadays on the basis of them being observers but we could build up together common activities, to give them grants to organize seminars, workshop on this kind of issues. We could also give them a scholarship to train people in terms of chemical analysis, electric analysis because Palestine is an important olive oil country. They are producing important volumes of olive oil. And the help OIC can provide them and this is what they are looking for it is on how always improving their quality from the tree up to the bottle.
Source voiceofrussiaBritain and Germany stopped Palestine from joining the International Olive Council,