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More European states join France in backing a Palestinian bid for limited statehood

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 29th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Many European nations are favoring limited statehood for Palestine, in the light of fresh hostilities with Israel. The Palestinians are expected to win approval as a non-member observer state by the United Nations. France, Switzerland and Denmark all indicate that they will vote in favor of the change.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - As more countries on the European continent join the chorus, Britain has held back, saying that it wanted an assurance that the Palestinians would not pursue Israel through the International Criminal Court.

Germany is in opposition to the diplomatic upgrade for the Palestinians at the United Nations, joining Israel and the United States which have long maintained that the only route to statehood is through a peace agreement made in direct talks with Israel.

Semi-statehood could allow Palestinian territories to access the court and other international bodies.

Several European governments are eager to give Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas their support after an eight-day conflict this month between Israel and Islamists in the Gaza Strip. Hard-line Islamists there are pledged to Israel's destruction and oppose his efforts towards negotiated peace.

With overwhelming support from the developing world, the Palestinians appear certain to earn approval in the 193-member U.N. General Assembly for a status upgrade to "observer state" on Thursday.

Switzerland, Denmark and Austria said they will vote for the upgrade. France gave its approval earlier this week. Britain said it would not oppose the move but needed more assurances to give its support.

"The first is that the Palestinian Authority should indicate a clear commitment to return immediately to negotiations without preconditions," Foreign Secretary William Hague told parliament.

"The second assurance relates to membership of other specialized U.N. agencies and action in the International Criminal Court," he added.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited Berne, Switzerland this month as the country hesitated between voting in favor of the resolution and abstaining. Abbas had repeated his commitment to relaunch the peace process immediately following the U.N. vote, the Swiss Foreign Ministry said.

Talks have been stalled for two years, mainly over the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which have expanded despite being deemed illegal by most of the world.

Germany says it opposes the Palestinian bid. Berlin has close ties with Israel and has strongly backed the right of the Jewish state to hit back against rocket attacks from Gaza during the latest upsurge of violence in the region.

"Our goal in all this is to prevent further negative effects on the already difficult Middle East peace process," German foreign ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke declared.

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