Iceland's parliament voted on Tuesday in favor of recognizing the Palestinian Territories as an independent state, the first Western European country to do so according Iceland's foreign minister. The measure passed symbolically on the United Nation's annual day of solidarity with the Palestinian people.
The vote paves the way for formal recognition by the small north Atlantic island, which led the way in recognizing the independence of the three Baltic states after the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1991.
"Iceland is the first Western European country to take this step," Foreign Minister Ossur Skarphedinsson told Icelandic state broadcaster RUV. "I now have the formal authority to declare our recognition of Palestine."
Palestinian UN observer Riyad Mansour read a message from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at UN headquarters on the occasion of the day of solidarity with the Palestinian people. He reaffirmed the Palestinian's bid for UN membership, saying it should complement peace negotiations, provided that Israel is prepared to negotiate on the basis of the 1967 borders.
Abbas said the Palestinians are not seeking "to delegitimize Israel" by applying to join the UN "but to delegitimize its settlement activities and the seizure of our occupied lands." He added that sanctions imposed on them by Israel because the Palestinians won membership in UNESCO are "unjust" and that Israel has no right to withhold their customs and tax revenues.
The Icelandic parliament resolution allowing for the recognition of a Palestinian state within the pre-Six Day War borders of 1967 was decided by 38 votes in the 63-seat.
"At the same time, parliament urges Israelis and Palestinians to seek a peace agreement on the basis of international law and UN resolutions, which include the mutual recognition of the state of Israel and the state of Palestine," said the resolution, proposed by the Icelandic foreign minister.
It also called on all sides to cease any violence and recalled the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.
Iceland's recognition, however, is expected to amount to a little more than symbolic step as the Palestinian Authority strives to get United Nations recognition. Its quest for a seat at the international body has so far failed.
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