28th Oct 2016

Palestine fed up with waiting for EU common position

  • Palestinian Authority chief Abbas will go ahead with the UN bid amid lack of EU unity on whether or not to support him (Photo: United Nations Photo)

Palestine's ambassador to the EU has said her leader, Mahmoud Abbas will on Friday (23 September) ask the UN Security Council for full UN membership despite last-minute British, French and US warnings not to go ahead.

Leila Shahid told EUobserver it remains unclear which EU countries will support the resolution or whether French President Nicolas Sarkozy's new three-step peace plan is an EU position or a purely French idea.

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"The Europeans have been taken aback by our decision but we are going ahead because we see they cannot agree with each other ... We can't give up our rights while we wait for the Europeans to be united. And we can't give up our rights because [US] President Obama has a presidential campaign coming up and wants to win votes," she said.

"[EU foreign relations chief] Ashton can't unite by force the 27 when they don't see eye to eye. She can't invent a foreign policy where there isn't one."

She spoke out after Sarkozy on Wednesday warned that seeking full UN membership will end with a US veto that "will engender a cycle of violence in the Middle East." He proposed instead the UN General Assembly gives Palestine "observer" status as an "intermediate stage" followed by a resumption of Arab-Israeli peace talks with a deadline of one year to reach agreement.

British leader David Cameron on Thursday took the US line that "No [UN] resolution can, on its own, substitute for the political will necessary to bring peace."

Not all the big players are giving Palestine the same advice, however.

Turkish deputy prime minister Bulent Arinc said in Brussels on Thursday that Turkey sees the Sarkozy plan as the same kind of stalling tactic as French calls for Turkey not to seek full EU membership: "What Sarkozy said to the Palestinians is the same thing he has been saying to Turkey ... This is wrong and his appeal to the Palestinians is also wrong."

For her part, the Palestinian ambassador said the US veto will not be the end of the UN process but "the beginning of a new phase" which could take weeks or months and could see Abbas also seek the French-model observer status later on.

"All the options are open ... Sarkozy proposed very specific options for timetables and so on. The speech was interesting and we will study the details very carefully. We will ask him to explain if this is a French proposal or a European one," she noted.

She added that no matter what happens, Palestine's decision to confront the US will help it to protect its borders against Israeli settlements.

"Friday is a big day. The world is turned over by the discussion on our status and the UN Security Council. It has brought Palestine back into the heart of talks about the whole region, about the positive developments in the Arab world. It has shown ... that Palestine is part and parcel of all this yearning by Arab society for a better future."

She said Israeli diplomats have tried to spook EU countries by telling them that if the UN upgrades Palestine, it will join the International Criminal Court and launch law suits against Israeli soldiers.

"Israel has been playing this game. The fact is that we want UN status in order to protect the borders of the Palestinian state, to protect East Jerusalem from annexation by Israel ... We want to protect what will one day be the Palestinian state because we have seen over the past 20 years that the peace talks have become almost an alibi for Israel to keep building settlements and walls and Israeli-only roads."

The Palestinians have kept the details of their draft UN resolution a secret until the last minute.

Shahid explained it will seek to define Palestinian borders on the basis of 1967 lines and reflect their "responsibility" for Israel's security. But it will not recognise Israel's right to exist as a "Jewish state." "We cannot recognise Israel as a Jewish state because 20 percent of its population are Arabs," she said.

Pointing to EU intervention in Libya, its past actions in Bosnia and Kosovo and its recognition of South Sudan, she noted that EU capitals would be guilty of "double standards" if they back down under Israeli pressure.

"Recognising Palestine is in the interest of the EU because with no Palestinian state there is no solution to the Palestinian-Israeli issue and no peace and stability in the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean [region] is Europe's number one commercial, diplomatic, environmental and trade partner in the world. This is the Mediterranean. This is not a far away place like Asia or China."

Belgium breaks Ceta deadlock

[Updated] Belgian leaders signed a joint declaration, clearing the way for the government to sign the EU-Canada trade pact. Wallonia's leader Paul Magnette said it was a victory for his people, and the rest of Europe.

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