Palestine won a first diplomatic victory in its quest for statehood on Wednesday when the UNESCO executive committee backed its bid to become a member of the cultural body with the rights of a state. Palestine's Arab allies braved intense US and French diplomatic pressure to bring the motion before the committee's member states, which passed it by 40 votes in favour to four against, with 14 abstentions. The Palestinian bid will now be submitted to the UNESCO general assembly at the end of the month for final approval, a victory for a territory already seeking recognition as a state from the United Nations Security Council. This request, which Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas presented to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on September 23, is being studied by council members, who are expected to vote in the coming weeks. The United States wields a veto on the Security Council, and has said it will veto any statehood bid before Palestine comes to an agreement with US ally Israel over their longstanding territorial stand-off.