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Palestine’s UN status: UK to abstain from vote

GENEVA: Britain said Wednesday it will abstain on a vote for unless the Palestinians commit to an unconditional return to talks with Israel.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain would only support Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Thursday s vote at UN headquarters if Abbas agreed to negotiations over a lasting two-state deal with Israel.

To secure Britain s vote, Hague said the Palestinians would also have to drop their pursuit of International Criminal Court (ICC) jurisdiction over Gaza and the West Bank and confirm that the UN resolution would not reply retrospectively.

“Up until the time of the vote itself, we will remain open to voting in favour of the resolution if we see public assurances by the Palestinians on these points,” Hague told parliament.”However, in the absence of these assurances the United Kingdom would abstain on the vote.”

He added that the guarantees sought by Britain would “not be difficult to make” and could be made either in the text of the Palestinian resolution, or in accompanying statements.

There was no question of Britain voting against the resolution, Hague said.

Meanwhile, More European states joined France on Wednesday in backing a Palestinian bid for limited statehood.

Germany said it was opposing the diplomatic upgrade for the Palestinians at the United Nations, joining Israel and the United States which say the only genuine route to statehood is via a peace agreement made in direct talks with Israel.

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

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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