Unesco general conference president Katalin Bogyay announced the result
31 October 2011 Last updated at 15:05
The UN cultural organisation has voted strongly in favour of membership for the Palestinians – a move opposed by Israel and the United States.
Of 173 countries voting, 107 were in favour, 14 opposed and 52 abstained.
Under US law, Washington can now withdraw funding to Unesco. This would deprive the agency of some $70m (£43.7m) – more than 20% of its budget.
The UN Security Council will vote next month on whether to grant the Palestinians full UN membership.
Membership of Unesco – perhaps best known for its World Heritage Sites – may seem a strange step towards statehood, says the BBC’s Jon Donnison, in Ramallah, but Palestinian leaders see it as part of a broader push to get international recognition and put pressure on Israel.
This is the first UN agency the Palestinians have sought to join since submitting their bid for recognition to the Security Council in September.
“This vote will erase a tiny part of the injustice done to the Palestinian people,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki told the Unesco meeting in Paris, after the result was announced.
Widespread applause greeted the result of Monday’s vote in the chamber, where a two-thirds majority is enough to pass the decision and no country has the right of veto.
The BBC’s David Chazan in Paris says Arab states were instrumental in getting the vote passed despite intense opposition from the US.
He says that in an emotional session, China, Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa voted in favour of Palestinian membership, while the US, Canada and Germany voted against and the UK abstained.
The outcome was swiftly denounced by the US and Israel.
US ambassador to Unesco David Killion called the move “premature” and “counterproductive”, and said it could affect relations.
“We recognise that this action today will complicate our ability to support Unesco’s programmes,” he told journalists.
“The only path to the Palestinian state that we all seek is through direct negotiations. There are no shortcuts.”
A US law passed in the 1990s allows Washington to cut funding to any UN body that admits Palestine as a full member.
The US currently funds more than 20% of Unesco’s entire budget.
An Israeli foreign ministry statement called the vote a “unilateral Palestinian manoeuvre which will bring no change on the ground but further removes the possibility for a peace agreement”.
“The Palestinian move at Unesco, as with similar such steps with other UN bodies, is tantamount to a rejection of the international community’s efforts to advance the peace process,” it said.
The statement added that Israel would be considering further steps regarding its co-operation with Unesco.
Correspondents say Monday’s vote is a symbolic breakthrough but that on its own it will not create a Palestinian state.
A vote is expected in November at the UN Security Council on granting full membership of the UN to the Palestinians. The US has said it will exercise its veto.