United Nations, Nov 29, 2012
United Nations, Nov 29, 2012
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas got a standing ovation as he made a historic appeal to the U.N. General Assembly for Palestine to be recognized as an observer state.
An overwhelming majority of U.N. members were expected to back the bid for non-member observer status, despite fierce opposition from Israel and its ally the United States.
Abbas said granting Palestine the status was “the last chance to save the two-state solution,” bringing peace between the Palestinians and Israel.
Abbas has asked for the Palestinians to be recognized as a U.N. “non-member observer state” and indicate his conditions for talks with Israel in a key speech to the 193-member assembly.
The Palestinians say 132 countries recognize their state bilaterally, but some of those are expected to abstain while many European nations are expected to vote in favor even though they have not recognized a Palestinian state.
Thursday’s motion requires a simple majority of those members present and voting in order to pass, and the bid is widely expected to be approved.
The Palestinian leadership is determined to make the 65th anniversary of a U.N. resolution on the division of Palestinian territory a “historic” landmark in their quest for an independent state.
The United States, a staunch ally of Israel, has launched an aggressive campaign against the bid, warning that the vote will do nothing to improve the prospects for new peace talks aimed at ending the decades-long conflict.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Middle East envoy David Hale met with Abbas at his New York hotel on Wednesday but failed to get the resolution withdrawn or amended, officials said.
The Palestinians gave no sign they were turning back.
Hanan Ashrawi, a top Palestinian Liberation Organization official, told a news conference in Ramallah that “the Palestinians can’t be blackmailed all the time with money.”
“If Israel wants to destabilize the whole region, it can,” she said. “We are talking to the Arab world about their support, if Israel responds with financial measures, and the EU has indicated they will not stop their support to us.”
Peace talks have been stalled for two years, mainly over the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which have expanded despite being deemed illegal by most of the world.
In their draft resolution, the Palestinians have pledged to relaunch the peace process immediately following the U.N. vote.
The European Union reiterated the bloc’s support for a Palestinian state Thursday despite splits between its 27 member states over granting upgraded status to the Palestinians at the United Nations.
“The EU has repeatedly expressed its support and wish for Palestine to become a full member of the United Nations as part of a solution to the conflict,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.
“The EU reiterates its readiness to recognize a Palestinian state when appropriate,” she added.
But her statement underlined that “only a political solution to the conflict can bring lasting security, peace and prosperity to Palestinians and Israelis.”
Despite hopes the 27 EU nations might line up on a single position at the U.N. — for, against, or abstaining — the bloc remained divided hours before the 2000 GMT vote.
The EU is Israel’s leading economic partner and the Palestinians’ leading donor. But in the end, the bloc split three ways: “yes”, “no” and “abstain”.
While three EU nations had been expected to vote against — the Czech Republic, Germany and the Netherlands, in the end, Germany and the Netherlands decided to abstain.
The Czechs seemed to be the only EU member to have come out against the Palestinian bid. A two-state solution could only be reached through through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, said a Czech ministry statement Thursday.
Security Council member France was the first European state to come out in favour of the Palestinian bid, on Tuesday. It was followed by Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Italy and Spain. Diplomats expect around 15 EU nations to back the Palestinians.
But another Security Council member, Britain, said it was likely to abstain.
Foreign minister William Hague said Wednesday that Britain would abstain unless the Palestinians undertook to resume talks with Israel and foreswear any move to take Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The Baltic states Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania will all abstain, expressing regret the EU couldn’t muster a common stance.
Hungary also announced plans to abstain, as did Slovenia and Bulgaria, which said “the proposed resolution will not change for better the situation between Israel and the Palestinians.”