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The Palestinian Authority is stepping up its efforts to gain international recognition as a de facto state: It recently asked the Council of Europe to grant it status that in practice would equate it with existing states.

The Palestinian request is considered almost certain to be approved, with the upgrading of its status likely to take place in September.

Though this would not constitute formal recognition of a Palestinian state, it would grant the Palestinians a status that is currently reserved for states. The upgrade would also transform the PA from a body that is invited to participate in Council of Europe deliberations only on an ad hoc basis to one that has a permanent role in the organization's activities.

In accordance the Palestinians' request, the Council of Europe is expected to recognize the Palestinian National Council rather than the Palestinian Authority. This is meant to prevent Hamas representatives, who are slated to join the PA government under a recent reconciliation deal with Fatah, from playing an active role in Council of Europe activities. The decision would recognize the PNC as "a partner in promoting democracy."

Recognition by the Council of Europe, which comprises 47 countries, is seen as an important diplomatic achievement: The parliamentarians who represent their countries in the Council of Europe are then likely to work to promote recognition of a Palestinian state by their own parliaments.

"In talks with members of the Council of Europe, it appears that there is broad support for upgrading the status of the Palestinians," said MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima ), who chairs the Knesset's permanent delegation to the council. "In the current political reality, there is no interest in opposing them or examining the degree to which their democratic processes have developed."