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20th Jan 2022

Palestine: EU bid to avoid UN vote on independence has failed

  • East Jerusalem: control of the city, a holy place for Arabs and Jews, is at the centre of the conflict (Photo: Hadar)

Palestinian leaders have declared that an EU-led attempt to revive Arab-Israeli peace talks has failed, leading them to go full-speed ahead for UN recognition instead.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas made the statement in Ramallah on Tuesday (11 July) following a meeting with his Greek counterpart, President Karolos Papoulias.

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"We will go to the United Nations and we hope the United States will not use its veto, but that we will go with its agreement ... The fact that there is no statement from the Quartet is a negative indication that there is deep division between them," he said.

His remarks come after the Quartet - the EU, Russia, the UN and the US - met on Monday in Washington at foreign minister level to establish parameters for new negotiations, such as the EU idea that a two-state solution should be based on borders before the 1967 war.

The Quartet did not issue a communique as expected.

US secretary of state Hilary Clinton said the meeting was "excellent". Russia's Sergei Lavrov said "the fact that we didn't produce a statement doesn't mean we disagree and abandoned the effort." EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton, who initiated the Washington event, has stayed silent on the outcome.

For his part, Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, told Israeli daily Haaretz in an interview that he will submit the UN bid in "the coming weeks."

"The Americans just could not deliver the Israelis," he said on the Washington meeting, referring to Israel's rejection of 1967 lines.

The Palestinians are confident that between 130 and 150 UN member states will acknowledge their bid, including a number of EU countries, such as Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

Asked by Haaretz on EU support for the move, Mansour said: "Just hold tight. You will be hearing interesting news soon about it before September."

The US is expected to veto Palestine's UN membership at UN Security Council level, giving it a status similar to Kosovo (widely recognised, but blocked by Russia from joining the New York-based body) or Taiwan (recognised but blocked by China).

Even without UN membership, the result could cause a sea change in Israeli-Palestinian relations: Palestine could apply to join the International Criminal Court in The Hague and file suits against alleged Israeli 'war crimes', it could ask Israelis on occupied land to become Palestinian citizens or leave and it could seek extra rights as 'prisoners of war' for the 5,000-or-so Palestinians currently in Israeli jails.

The move could also ignite what is already a tinder box situation in the Middle East.

Asked by Haaretz what might happen the day after the UN vote, Mansour looked to Tahrir square in Cairo as an analogy for potential mass protests by Palestinians demanding change.

"The Palestinian people are like the Egyptian people and are capable of doing remarkable things. But these things you don't give orders for. If the Egyptian people managed to change the US position in 18 days so that [US President] Obama told his ally [Egyptian leader] Mubarak to leave, what will the position of the international community be if the Palestinian people will say we want independence - and we want it now?"

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