Middle East

Palestinians to bid for UN state recognition next month

Palestinian flag in front of the separation barrier near Bethlehem, West Bank (July 2011)
Image caption The Palestinians want an independent state within its 1967 borders

The Palestinian Authority says it will present its application for international recognition of statehood to the UN next month.

President Mahmoud Abbas will submit the application when he is in New York for the 66th General Assembly, due to open on 20 September.

The PA has said it can no longer wait for independence to be reached through the stalled peace talks with Israel.

But correspondents say the bid is almost certain to be vetoed by the US.

The PA's Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said Mr Abbas would "personally present the bid to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon" when the assembly opens.

He told the AFP news agency Mr Abbas would "insist on this historic initiative and (UN Secretary-General) Ban Ki-moon will present the request to the Security Council".

Lebanon will hold the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council in September, and Mr Malki said the Palestinians were hopeful that this would boost their chances of success.

"The president of the council has special prerogatives, which is crucial," he said.

'Regrettable'

The PA wants UN recognition of an independent, sovereign state within the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six Day War.

The vote would be largely symbolic but the Palestinians say it would strengthen their hand in negotiations with Israel and force a re-start of the peace talks, which stalled more than a year ago over the issue of Israeli settlement building in occupied territories.

Mr Malki said he believed "more than 130 countries would recognise the state of Palestine".

But the bid is strongly opposed by Israel and by the US, which has veto power on the Security Council.

The Palestinians are also seeking an upgrade of their status on the General Assembly from observer to non-member state.

This would allow them to become full members of UN agencies, including Unesco, WHO and Unicef, and would not require Security Council approval.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the move was "expected and regrettable".

In a statement, Mr Netanyahu said he "still believes that only through direct and honest negotiations, not through unilateral decisions, will it be possible to advance the peace process".