France to Recognize Palestinian State at UN

Bid by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas seems certain to win approval in any vote in the 193-nation assembly.

France said on Tuesday it would vote in favor of Palestinian non-member status at the United Nations, boosting Palestinian efforts to secure greater international recognition.

Frustrated that their bid for full UN membership last year was thwarted by U.S. opposition in the UN Security Council, Palestinians have launched a watered-down bid for recognition as a non-member state, similar to the status the Vatican enjoys.

The proposal, which is due to be put to the vote in the
General Assembly at the end of the week, would implicitly recognize Palestinian statehood. It could also grant access to bodies such as the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where the Palestinians could file complaints against Israel.

"This Thursday or Friday, when the question is asked, France will vote yes," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced in the French National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.

Abbas' bid seems certain to win approval in any vote in the 193-nation assembly. The United States say Palestinian statehood must be achieved by negotiation and has called on Abbas to return to peace talks that collapsed in 2010 over Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.

"It is only with negotiations between the two sides that we demand immediately without any preconditions that a Palestinian state can become a reality," Fabius said.

France, a member of the UN Security Council, had under former President Nicolas Sarkozy promised to support Abbas if he opted for the upgrade option and broke from its closest allies last year voting in favor of giving the Palestinians full membership of the UN's cultural agency UNESCO.

Earlier on Tuesday, an Israeli official said that American-Israeli efforts to soften the wording of the Palestinian bid have failed.

Haaretz has learned that the push did not succeed because the Palestinians refused to add a clause to the draft that would prevent them from filing criminal charges against Israeli officials at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The General Assembly was due to vote on the proposal on Thursday.

The Palestinians distributed the final draft of the General Assembly resolution early on Tuesday morning in New York and are refusing to pursue any further discussions on the matter.

Over the past two days, the United States has made attempts to alter the wording of the resolution in order to minimize the political damage that will likely result from the General Assembly vote, in which the Palestinians are expected to garner a large majority.