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Palestinians win support from Swiss, Danes for UN vote
November 28, 2012 / 11:36 AM / 5 years ago

Palestinians win support from Swiss, Danes for UN vote

6 Min Read

* Switzerland, Denmark to support Palestinian U.N. bid

* Britain still undecided

* Hope that support will boost peace talks

By Stephanie Nebehay and Noah Browning

GENEVA/RAMALLAH, West Bank, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Switzerland and Denmark on Wednesday joined a growing list of European countries that back an upgrade for Palestinians to non-member status at the United Nations, a victory that would be a diplomatic boost to their aspirations for statehood.

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.

Israel and its main ally the United States oppose the move, which would implicitly recognize Palestinian statehood.

France said on Tuesday it would vote in favour of non-member status and Switzerland and Denmark have now followed suit.

"The decision to support the resolution is in accordance with Switzerland's policy to seek a negotiated, just, and durable peace between Israel and an independent and viable Palestinian state within secure and internationally recognised borders," the Swiss Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The Swiss decision followed a visit to Berne by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas this month as the country hesitated between voting in favour of the resolution or abstaining.

A positive vote would make it possible to "revitalise the concept of a two-state solution by placing Israel and Palestine on an equal footing in future peace negotiations", the Swiss ministry said.

Abbas had reiterated his commitment to relaunch the peace process immediately following the U.N. vote, it said.

In Copenhagen, the Danish foreign minister said Denmark would also vote "yes".

"It is a moderate text which clearly highlights the need for peace negotiations and negotiations for a two-state solution that can secure Palestinians a safe and sustainable state side by side with Israel, minister Villy Sovndal said.

Britain, which has been cool on the idea, was due to announce its decision later in the day.

Israel and the United States condemn the U.N. bid, saying the only genuine route to statehood for the Palestinians is via a peace agreement made in direct talks with Israel.

Talks however 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.

Turning Point

In Ramallah in the West Bank, senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Hanan Ashrawi said the response was encouraging and sent a message of hope to all Palestinians.

"This constitutes a historical turning point and opportunity for the world to rectify a grave historical injustice that the Palestinians have undergone since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948."

"Now the people of this land, with enormous solidarity, is telling the whole world not only that we exist, but we are on our land and we have a right to self-determination and statehood," she said.

European countries are eager to bolster moderates such as Abbas after an eight-day conflict this month between Israel and Gaza-based Islamists estranged from more moderate West Bank compatriots and opposed to Israel's very existence.

Israel and the United States have mooted withholding aid and tax revenue that the Palestinian government in the West Bank needs to survive. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has also viewed options that include bringing down Abbas.

The change would allow the Palestinian territories to access bodies like the International Crminal Court, which prosecutes people for genocide, war crimes and other human rights violations.

After Israeli, British and U.S. diplomats unsuccessfully tried to persuade the Palestinians to drop their upgrade bid, they focused on trying to get the Palestinians to guarantee that they would forego complaining about Israel to the ICC.

Britain, which had pushed European countries to abstain on the U.N. vote, has asked the Palestinians to forego joining the ICC in return for its vote. Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said London had not yet decided how to vote.

"We have made consistently clear that it is wrong for the Palestinians to bring this resolution to a vote at this time and that it isn't likely to be a helpful contribution to the peace process in the Middle East," Lyall said in New York on Tuesday.

The Palestinian U.N. observer, Riyad Mansour, said the Palestinians would not rush to sign up to the ICC if they win the U.N. status upgrade. But seeking action against Israel in the court would remain an option, he told a news conference at the United Nations on Tuesday.

Mansour said that if Israel continued to violate international law, particularly by building settlements in the West Bank - territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War - then the Palestinians would consult with friends, including Europe, on what to do next.

The United States has suggested aid for the Palestinians - and possibly some funding for the United Nations - could also be at risk if the Palestinians win the U.N. upgrade. Israel has said it may cancel the Paris Protocol, an economic accord it maintains with the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority.

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