Strong European support for Palestinian statehood move
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A Palestinian bid for indirect U.N. recognition of statehood received vows of support from more than a dozen European nations as of Wednesday, and diplomats said this backing may deter Israel from harsh retaliation against the Palestinian Authority for seeking to upgrade its U.N. status.
A Palestinian resolution on Thursday that would change its U.N. observer status from an "entity" to a "non-member state," implicitly recognizing the sovereign state of Palestine, is expected to pass easily in the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly. But Israel, the United States and a handful of other members of are expected to vote against it.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been leading the campaign to win support for the resolution, and some European governments have offered him their support after an eight-day conflict this month between Israel and Islamists in the Gaza Strip, who are pledged to Israel's destruction and oppose his efforts towards a negotiated peace.
The U.S. State Department said Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and U.S. Mideast peace envoy David Hale traveled to New York on Wednesday in a last-ditch effort to get Abbas to reconsider.
"We've been clear, we've been consistent with the Palestinians, that we oppose observer state status in the General Assembly and this resolution," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
She repeated U.S. warnings that the move could hit U.S. economic support for the Palestinians. The Israelis have also warned that they might take deductions out of monthly transfers of duties that Israel collects on the Palestinians' behalf.
The United States and Israel say the only genuine route to statehood is at the negotiating table, through a peace accord hammered out in direct talks with Israel.
Granting Palestinians the title of "non-member observer state" falls short of full U.N. membership - something the Palestinians tried but failed to achieve last year. But it would allow them access to the International Criminal Court and some other international bodies, should they choose to join them. The Vatican numbers among the U.N.'s non-member states. Continued...