Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas gestures after delivering a speech in the West Bank city of Ramallah in September 2011. The UN Security Council cannot agree on whether to accept Palestine as a member of the United Nations, according to a draft report of a membership committee obtained by AFP. © Abbas Momani - AFP/File
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas
Last updated: November 8, 2011

UN Council deadlocked on Palestinian bid

The UN Security Council is deadlocked on whether to accept or reject Palestine as a member of the United Nations, according to a draft report of a key committee obtained Tuesday.

"The committee was unable to make a unanimous recommendation to the Security Council," said the report by the committee on admitting new UN members, adding to the troubles faced by the Palestinian application made by president Mahmud Abbas on September 23.

The United States has vowed to block any approval given by the 15-member Security Council but its membership committee still has to consider the bid.

The draft report, obtained by AFP, avoids saying which countries supported or opposed the bid and whether there was a majority in favor or against. It said simply that "differing views were expressed".

The Palestinians have heralded their success in joining UNESCO where a majority vote of the agency's main conference accepted membership.

The route to full UN acceptance is packed with obstacles however.

The membership committee will meet on Friday when it must decide what action to take on the Palestinian demand. The report could be changed.

Any final vote on the bid at the full Security Council would need nine votes in favor, without any veto by one of the five permanent members. At the moment, the best diplomatic estimate gives them eight votes.

Brazil, China, India, Lebanon, Russia and South Africa have publicly backed the Palestinian case. Nigeria and Gabon have not indicated their vote but are expected to back the admission.

The United States has said it will veto and Britain, Colombia and France announced at a meeting of the committee last week that they would abstain.

Germany has not yet announced its stance, but is expected to abstain or vote no, diplomats said. Portugal and Bosnia are expected to abstain.

Portugal, current president of the Security Council, will now try to amend the committee's report to get a consensus, diplomats said, while predicting that it would be virtually impossible.

The membership committee cannot make a recommendation to the Security Council unless it has consensus, diplomats stressed.

Council members are now waiting for the Palestinians to indicate whether they want a full vote on the Security Council. Normally this will be made through Lebanon as the current Arab member of the body.

"The opinion of the committee does not cancel our right to go to the UN Security Council but we will not take any decision before the publication of the report" on Friday, Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, told AFP.

The Palestinian leadership will decide the next step after consulting with Arab allies, he said.

"But it is doomed to failure so whether they make the call depends on whether they want a hard landing or a soft landing," one western diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

The United States and Israel oppose Palestinian membership of the UN because they say there must be direct Palestinian-Israel talks on setting up a new state.

The Palestinians could still decide to go to the UN General Assembly and seek a vote on a form of super observer status. France has strongly urged the Palestinians to seek this path.

According to the draft report, some nations on the committee said that the Palestinians "fulfilled" the criteria for state membership as they were "peace loving" and "the lack of precisely settled borders was not an obstacle to statehood."

"Questions were raised as to whether Palestine was indeed a peace-loving state, since Hamas refused to renounce terrorism and violence," the report said of those opposing the bid.

Hamas controls Gaza from where rocket attacks are regularly launched on Israel.

There have been no direct talks between the Middle East rivals since September last year. The Palestinians withdrew from talks after Israel ended a moratorium on settlement building in the occupied territories.

While the United States and European powers have called for new talks, they have also condemned Israel's settlement building.

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