Passport

President Abbas, please step away from the seat

As Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas prepared to submit his application for membership in the United Nations last week, a group of Palestinians paraded a mock blue U.N. seat around the Turtle Bay headquarters to symbolize their quest for a seat at the U.N. table.

But there is another chair that the Palestinian leader aspires to sit in -- it's small and blond, with wooden arms and a white leather seat, right next to the U.N. General Assembly podium. It is reserved for heads of state during the annual U.N. General Assembly debate. Foreign ministers, ambassadors, and the Palestinian leader must stand.

The photo above, which was taken by a U.N. photographer, Mark Garten, minutes before Abbas addressed the General Assembly, shows the Palestinian leader conferring with the U.N. chief of protocol, Desmond Parker. They are in the green room, where world leaders wait before being called to speak.

In the foreground, we see the backup chair, which is to be moved to the General Assembly in case the other one breaks. But the instruction -- Please do not sit on this chair -- still applies to President Abbas, at least for the time being.

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Mark Garten/U.N. Photo

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