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Palestine wins European boost for UN vote
Published Wednesday 28/11/2012 (updated) 29/11/2012 14:51
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A girl waves a Palestinian flag during a protest against Israeli
airstrikes on Gaza, November 21, 2012.(Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi)
By Stephanie Nebehay
and Noah Browning


RAMALLAH (Reuters) -- More European states joined France on Wednesday in backing a Palestinian bid for limited statehood, but Britain held back, saying it wanted an assurance that Palestine would not pursue Israel through the International Criminal Court.

Germany said it was opposing the diplomatic upgrade for the PLO at the United Nations, joining Israel and the United States which say the only genuine route to statehood is via a peace agreement made in direct talks with Israel.

President Mahmoud Abbas is leading the campaign and several European governments are eager to give him their support after an eight-day war this month by Israel on the Gaza Strip.

With overwhelming support from the developing world, Palestine appears certain to earn approval in the 193-member UN General Assembly for a status upgrade to "observer state" on Thursday.

Switzerland, Denmark and Austria said they would vote for the upgrade. France gave its approval on Tuesday. Britain said it would not oppose the move but needed more assurances to give its support.

"The first is that the Palestinian Authority should indicate a clear commitment to return immediately to negotiations without preconditions," Foreign Seretary William Hague told parliament.

"The second assurance relates to membership of other specialised UN agencies and action in the International Criminal Court," he added.

The Swiss approval followed a visit to Berne by Abbas this month as the country hesitated between voting in favour of the resolution or abstaining.

Abbas had reiterated his commitment to relaunch the peace process immediately following the UN vote, the Swiss Foreign Ministry said.

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.

Germany said it would oppose the Palestinian bid. Berlin has close ties with Israel.

"Our goal in all this is to prevent further negative effects on the already difficult Middle East peace process," German foreign ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke said.

He reiterated Germany's support for a two-state solution as the final result of a "just and negotiated settlement".

Turning point

In Ramallah in the West Bank, senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Hanan Ashrawi said the positive responses from other European states were encouraging and sent a message of hope to all Palestinians.

"This constitutes a historical turning point and opportunity for the world to rectify a grave historical injustice that the Palestinians have undergone since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948."

"Now the people of this land, with enormous solidarity, is telling the whole world not only that we exist, but we are on our land and we have a right to self-determination and statehood," she said.

Israel and the United States have mooted withholding aid and tax revenue that the Palestinian government in the West Bank needs to survive. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has also viewed options that include bringing down Abbas.

Israeli, British and US diplomats had tried to persuade the PLO to drop the upgrade bid. When that foundered, they focused on trying to get the PLO to guarantee that it would forego complaining about Israel to the ICC.

The court prosecutes people for genocide, war crimes and other human rights violations.

The Palestinian UN observer, Riyad Mansour, said Palestine would not rush to sign up to the ICC if it wins the UN status upgrade. But seeking action against Israel in the court would remain an option, he told a news conference at the United Nations on Tuesday.

Mansour said that if Israel continued to violate international law, particularly by building settlements in the West Bank - territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War - then the Palestinians would consult with friends, including Europe, on what to do next.

The United States has suggested aid for the Palestinians -- and possibly some funding for the United Nations - could also be at risk if the PLO wins the UN upgrade. Israel has said it may cancel the Paris Protocol, an economic accord it maintains with the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority.

In Ramallah on Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority reiterated its "categorical rejection" of Israeli threats and a "policy of extortion" against the government.

Ma'an staff in Bethlehem contributed to this report.
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1 ) Rachid / The Netherlands
28/11/2012 14:25
Hahaha. What a joke this world has become:( Give us your rights, and we make sure you get an extra glass of water in your prison. If you don't, we'll take away all your possesions and you can starve to death. My hate for the American-British-Israeli hegemony is becomming unbearable!

2 ) shirley / australia
28/11/2012 14:36
NORWAY was always going to vote Yes especially after the killing of pal supporters as for swiss small country and wait to see spain vote current gov pro US as for demark racist and nato head from there Swiss were neutral world war 2 Dear Isreal please cancel the paris protocol after vote it is illegal anyway dont think NORWAY is part of EU

3 ) Hilde / Norway
28/11/2012 15:43
Heh, Aussie knows geography. It doesn't matter whether a country is small or not, girlie, a vote is a vote. As for racist, I don't know if you've any idea about the consequences of the immigration policies Down Under, but I'd check them out before starting to blabber. Cowardly Gillard wanted to vote with the US as lapdogs are wont to do, but fortunately has some sensible-ish people in her party. Go drink a beer and surf some, you're not doing any good here.

4 ) so folkS--how do you / THINK LIFR WILL
28/11/2012 16:08
CHANGE FOR THE BETTER IN THE WEST BANK?

5 ) Paul / Norway
28/11/2012 17:59
Maan news forgets to mention Norway has also officially announced it will support Palestine. It's official. It says here on the foreign affairs website: http://www.regjeringen.no/en/dep/ud/press/news/2012/un_palestine.html?id=708699

6 ) @ Change-4 / The Worst
28/11/2012 18:35
The UNGA has enough Arab/Mulsim votes, such that Palestine does
NOT need a "European boost" to become a non-member state, but:
1- Palestine's sovereignty will remain Just Gaza and Areas A/B,
unless it surrenders to Israeli demands (Jerusalem, refugees, etc.),
2- Palestine's government will budget crisis be will get even worse,
due to discontinued foreign donations, and accordingly
3- Palestine's economy will remain stagnant or get even worse !!!

7 ) Yusuf Legere / Canada
28/11/2012 20:36
The interesting thing here is Britan's backhanded admission that Israel is a criminal enterprise. I would think that if they thought otherwise there would be no reason to fear Israel being brought to the ICC

8 ) Vera / USA
28/11/2012 21:27
A two-state solution is the ONLY answer out of this morass. Palestinians have a self-evident right to exist and be free. In the USA, we call those 'inalienable rights'... rights inseparable from each and every human being. Palestine should never give up it's options... everything but violence should be retained. Palestine will need those Hague court options - and history teaches they might well use them. May God bless us with world peace- real and lasting.

9 ) Emile / Palestine
29/11/2012 01:10
#8 Vera. Very well said. Thank you.

10 ) Bob / U.K.
29/11/2012 01:20
Yes, GO back to bed.Shirley Whirley.

11 ) Elisheva / USA
29/11/2012 02:07
You're right, #7

12 ) Nizar / Tanzania
29/11/2012 08:35
USA and UK should wake up and admit that the days of their empire are numbered. State of Palestine will be admitted to the international community and Israel will be dragged to the ICC. However loud they scream and protest they can not reverse the historical trend - nizar1941@gmail.com
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