France won’t support Palestinian UN membership bid

Becoming the 2nd country after US to issue a formal statement on the vote, France told UN Council sub-committee that it plans to abstain

Israel’s efforts to thwart a Palestinian drive for unilateral statehood at the United Nations was buoyed Saturday when France announced that it didn’t support the measure.

France is one of 15 nations that comprise the UN Security Council, which is debating a Palestinian request for UN membership.

On Friday France informed a UN Council sub-committee that it plans to abstain when a vote is called on the matter.  It is the second country, after the US, to issue a formal statement on the vote.

The sub-committee is expected to submit a report on the Palestinian statehood request on November 11 to the UN Security Council.

Since the Palestinians need the support of nine Security Council members for their request to be approved, an abstention is the equivalent of a vote against the Palestinian bid.

Israel assumes that Germany, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Columbia have told the Security Council that they are opposed, mostly likely in the form of an abstention.

The US plans to oppose the measure.

Brazil, India, Lebanon, South Africa, Russia and China are expected to support the Palestinians. The position of Nigeria, Gabon and Bosnia and Herzegovina has been unclear.

Should all nine of those countries support the Palestinians, the US, one of five Security Council members with veto power, has promised to use that veto to squash the measure.

But Palestinians have pressed forward, in spite of the US veto, in hopes that a strong show of support would stand as one more sign that they had the backing of the international community, for unilateral statehood, even if technically, they failed to attain UN membership.

There is no doubt about the legitimacy of the Palestinian aspiration for statehood, France said in a statement put out Saturday by its Foreign Ministry.

But because of the US veto, it has no hope of attaining it at this time.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy already told the UN General Assembly on September 21, that the Palestinian bid for unilateral statehood at this time could lead to conflict and stagnation, the ministry said.

It said that a wiser course of action was for the Palestinian Authority to pursue an upgrade in their status at the UN. It was for this reason, the Foreign Ministry said, that it voted in support of a decision earlier this week by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Committee to accept Palestine as its 195th member.

France is committed to a comprehensive peace agreement, the ministry said. It called on both Israel and the Palestinian to resume negotiations, which have been stalled for over a year.

The Palestinians have refused to negotiate with Israel until it freezes  settlements activity in the West Bank and Jewish construction in east  Jerusalem. Israel has refused to heed this request. Israel has called on the Palestinians to sit at the negotiating table without preconditions.

Israel had no formal response to France statement.

An Israeli official, however, noted that it would a significant blow to  the Palestinian drive for unilateral statehood, if they failed to secure the required support of nine Security Council members necessary for  their UN membership bid to pass.

It would be a “diplomatic slap in the face” to the Palestinians, said the official.

He added that the French statement showed that Israel was not as diplomatically isolated people thought.

( / 05.11.2011)

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