Palestinians May Try to Sidestep U.S. Veto in UN Statehood Push, Official Says

Foreign Minister Riad Malki says emergency session of the General Assembly known as 'Uniting for Peace' could override any veto en route to Palestinian statehood.

The Palestinian foreign minister says the Palestinians will try to bypass the UN Security Council if the U.S. vetoes their attempt to win independence.

If peace talks remain deadlocked, the Palestinians plan to seek UN recognition of an independent state in September.

UN headquarters AP October 12, 2010

Security Council approval is needed to gain acceptance as a UN member. But President Barack Obama has signaled the U.S. will use its veto power in the council.

The Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said Wednesday that the Palestinians will seek an emergency session of the General Assembly known as "Uniting for Peace" to override any veto.

The move is certain to set off legal wrangling. And Malki acknowledged the Palestinians still do not have the required two-thirds support in the assembly.

Maliki's comment came after last week, the president of the United Nations General Assembly said there was no way that a Palestinian state could become a member of the United Nations without a recommendation from the Security Council.

Joseph Deiss told a news conference that if the United States or any other permanent council member used its veto, the General Assembly would not be able to vote on membership for Palestine.

U.S. President Barack Obama said last weekend that no vote at the United Nations would ever create a Palestinian state, a strong indication that the U.S. would veto a resolution recommending Palestinian membership in the 192-nation world body.

Some legal experts say there may be ways to maneuver around that block. The question is whether any declaration the Palestinians can wrest from the General Assembly would be a largely symbolic gesture or would be strong enough to win them valuable legal leverage against Israel's occupation.

Asked if there was any other way for the Palestinians to achieve UN membership if a Security Council resolution is vetoed, Deiss replied: "No. No."

Deiss, a former president of the Swiss Confederation and a former foreign minister who led Swiss voters to approve joining the UN in 2002, made a distinction between UN membership and recognition of Palestine as a state.

He said the requirements for UN membership are clearly stated in the UN Charter: A state has to fill out an application stating its adherence to the Charter, the 15-member Security Council must then make a recommendation the requires nine yes votes and no veto by a permanent member, and only then can the General Assembly vote on membership, which must be approved by a two-thirds majority.

Deiss said the Palestinians are also working to be recognized as an independent state by as many countries as possible.

"This is one way to get statehood and I think before the existence of the United Nations, this was the main track," he said.

So far, 112 nations have recognized Palestine, mostly in the developing world.

The Palestinians predict they will have 135 recognitions by September - more than two-thirds of the General Assembly.

Deiss recalled that General Assembly resolution 181 of 1947 already provides for the creation of two states, one Arab, one Jewish, at the end of the British mandate in Palestine. He said if the Palestinians get a large number of recognitions, this has to be taken into consideration along with the 1947 resolution.

"The General Assembly cannot take the initiative, but we are ready to do our work as soon as a recommendation of the Security Council will be addressed," Deiss said.

He said the UN cannot necessarily grant statehood, but to be a member of United Nations at least "gives you an international recognition and gives you also protection since one of the goals of the United Nations is to protect the sovereignty of its members."