European Parliament backs recognition of Palestinian state 'in principle'
European Parliament backs recognition of Palestinian state 'in principle' © - AFP/File
European Parliament backs recognition of Palestinian state 'in principle'
AFP
Last updated: December 17, 2014

European Parliament backs recognition of Palestinian state "in principle"

Banner Icon The European Parliament overwhelmingly backed the recognition of a Palestinian state "in principle" on Wednesday, following a series of votes on the issue in EU nations which have enraged Israel.

The Palestinians on Wednesday sought Arab backing for a draft UN resolution that would set a two-year deadline for reaching a final settlement with Israel and pave the way to statehood.

Jordan showed its reluctance to endorse the text, with the ambassador suggesting that a clash should be avoided at the UN Security Council over how to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

"We have to see with the Palestinians whether they would want to go with the text as is and risk whatever comes, or we can discuss and try to get something consensual," said Ambassador Dina Kawar.

Jordan's role is key as the representative of the Arab Group at the 15-member council.

Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki said the draft would be submitted to the Security Council after the Palestinians agreed with France on a merged text.

An Arab-backed draft of the text had previously set a deadline of November 2016 for Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories, but France has pushed for a softer resolution.

The new text would set a two-year deadline for wrapping up negotiations on a final agreement paving the way to a new Palestinian state with Jerusalem as the shared capital.

No firm deadline on an ending the Israeli occupation would be included but the resolution would call for a phased withdrawal of Israeli security forces over an agreed period.

- US weighs veto -

In Washington, the State Department declined to say whether the United States would use its veto power.

"There are a range of options for proposals that could be formally submitted. That hasn't happened yet, so it depends on what the details are on what we'll do," said spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

"We don't have any problem with them filing some resolution, providing it's done in the spirit of working with people to see how we could proceed forward in a thoughtful way that solves the problem, doesn't make it worse," US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters.

A US veto also risks angering key Arab allies, including partners in the US-led coalition carrying out air strikes against the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria and Iraq.

The Palestinians pushed for action at the United Nations as the European parliament overwhelmingly backed recognition of a Palestinian state, the latest assembly in Europe to adopt a motion to that end.

"The draft that will be presented today (Wednesday) is the French draft based on Palestinian observations and decisions," Malki told AFP, adding that a vote could take place 24 hours later.

UN diplomats however cautioned that action may not be imminent. Jordan was due to meet with Britain, France and the United States later before deciding on whether to submit the Palestinian text.

The Palestinians began circulating a draft at the end of September, after president Mahmud Abbas told the UN General Assembly that it was time to fast-track Palestinian statehood.

The text as it stood had no chance of approval.

The US administration opposes moves to bind negotiators' hands through a UN resolution -- particularly any attempt to set a deadline for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank.

But the threat of the draft seems to have been enough to jolt the international community into action.

France stepped into the fray last month and, with Britain and Germany, began discussing options for a separate resolution.

Keen to head off a diplomatic crisis, Kerry held a flurry of meetings this week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian negotiators and European ministers.

Kerry suggested a UN resolution could play into the hands of Israeli hardliners as the country heads toward elections in March.

- Palestinians 'not going to evaporate' -

The latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, shepherded by Kerry, collapsed in April amid mutual recriminations.

This summer's 50-day war in Gaza followed, and tensions have boiled over in the West Bank and east Jerusalem with a series of deadly "lone wolf" attacks on Israelis and frequent clashes between security forces and stone-throwing Palestinians.

The Palestinian envoy to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, warned this week that the international community could not simply ignore the Palestinian question.

"The Palestinian question is not going to evaporate," he said.

Mansour warned of more confrontation on the ground and said the Palestinians were ready to take action at the General Assembly and at the International Criminal Court.

Frustration with the stalled peace process has also grown in Europe, where lawmakers in Britain, France and Spain have all called in recent weeks for the recognition of a Palestinian state.

An EU court on Wednesday ordered the removal of Hamas from its terror blacklist, drawing an angry response from Netanyahu.

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