The Palestinians will renew their bid to upgrade their status at the United Nations next month, their foreign minister said on Saturday, a move which could strengthen their statehood claims as talks with Israel remain stalled.
Palestinians are listed as a U.N. observer "entity" with no voting rights. They will ask to be made a non-member observer state at the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 27, Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki told reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Such status, akin to the Vatican's, would be an indirect recognition of their claims on statehood in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. It would allow them to join a number of U.N. agencies, as well as the International Criminal Court.
Malki said President Mahmoud Abbas would make the status request in a speech and the Palestinians would then lobby for support among U.N. member states, many of which are sympathetic to the campaign and regard the West Bank settlements as illegal.
"When we are sure we have won absolute support from the largest possible number of states, we will be ready to request that the General Assembly vote on such a draft resolution," Malki said.
Israel's ambassador to the U.N., Ron Prosor told Israel Radio on Sunday morning the Palestinians have a "guaranteed majority" in the 193-member General Assembly — enough to bestow non-member observer status, which the envoy predicted would be used "to hurt us [Israel]" in various international forums. Prosor accused the Palestinians of trying to recapture international attention that has shifted to crises in Iran, Egypt and Syria. "There is an attempt [by the Palestinians] to make unilateral moves in order to internationalize the conflict," Prosor said. "But beyond what are perhaps the feelings of frustration, it is important to remember that the path to peace really is through the negotiating table with Israel."
The bid was due to be discussed at an emergency meeting of the "Palestine Committee" of the Non-Aligned Movement called by Abbas in Ramallah, Army Radio reported. Israel agreed to permit representatives from Colombia, Egypt, India, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe to pass through its borders to attend the conference. But representatives from Algeria, Bangladesh, Cuba, Indonesia and Malaysia were not granted passage as their countries do not have diplomatic ties with Israel.
A simple majority vote in the General Assembly would be enough to bestow non-member observer status, bypassing the Security Council — where the United States, Israel's ally, has a veto.
"We are looking forward to getting 180 votes," Malki said on Saturday. "We will become a non-member [observer] state in 2012."
Once that was achieved, he said, the Palestinians would pursue full U.N. membership. However that would require approval by the Security Council — and Washington.
"This is an ongoing struggle that will not stop and which we will continue to the end," Malki said.
A similar campaign by the Palestinians last year proved short-lived amid opposition from Israel and the United States, which said a Palestinian state should be founded in agreement with Israel.
Malki's remarks appeared to signal the Palestinians might put off the General Assembly vote at the United Nations until after the U.S. election in November, in the run-up to which President Barack Obama would be mindful of his pro-Israel constituency.
Geoffrey Anisman, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Israel, reiterated the Obama administration's call on Palestinians to pursue direct negotiations with Israel.
"We believe that one-sided actions at the U.N. will not produce progress or secure statehood for the Palestinians, and our message to the Palestinians remains the same," he said.
Palestinians have made a freeze on Israeli settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem a condition for returning to peace talks. Israel cites biblical and historical ties to the areas and says the issue of settlements should be decided through negotiations.
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