Middle East

Palestinian President Abbas 'would accept' UN upgrade

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and French President Francois Hollande at a news conference in Paris on 8 June 2012
Image caption Abbas's attempt for full UN membership was rejected last year

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas says he is ready to accept "non-member state" status at the United Nations, if Israel does not resume peace talks.

He made the comments as French President Francois Hollande lent his support to Palestinian aims for UN state recognition.

Last September the Palestinian bid for full member status fell apart when the United States said it would veto it.

Security Council backing is required for bids for full UN membership.

Israel is strongly opposed to any Palestinian bid for UN state recognition and has lobbied against it.

Israel fears Palestinian efforts for higher status at the UN are part of a plan to delegitimise the state of Israel.

Mr Abbas told a news conference in Paris that if Israel decided not to restart negotiations, "we will of course go to the (UN) General Assembly to obtain non-member status".

French backing

Mr Hollande, whose recent election has reversed French policy towards Palestinian ambitions at the UN, backed Mr Abbas's aims.

"Today, we must do everything to facilitate the recognition of a Palestinian state via a negotiated process," Mr Hollande said at the same news conference.

Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians stalled in late 2010 when Palestinians walked out in protest at the building of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Currently, Palestinians have "observer" status at the UN, without voting rights.

Upgrading to "non-member state" status would allow the Palestinians to sign certain international treaties such as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

UN diplomats say approval of "non-member state" status requires a majority vote from the 193-member UN General Assembly.

Unesco member

One-hundred-and-twenty General Assembly members already approved last year's attempt to gain full UN recognition.

In theory, therefore, the Palestinians are almost certain to gain non-member state status if they apply.

Other entities with "non-member state" status at the UN include the Vatican, which does not have voting rights either.

Last October the UN's cultural body Unesco voted strongly in favour of admitting the Palestinians.

In response, Washington said it would cut funding to Unesco. Its membership dues provide around a fifth of the organisation's budget.

Palestinian membership of Unesco was broadly seen as a step towards strengthening the Palestinians' position at the United Nations.

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