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French parliament set to vote Palestine recognition

French lower house of parliament
French lower house of parliament (cc) Wikimédia/Richard Ying et Tangui Morlier

French lawmakers are to vote on Tuesday on a motion urging the government to recognise Palestine as a state.

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The motion, which is non-binding, is expected to be passed comfortably in the lower house, with the majority of Socialist, Green and Communist MPs voting in favour.

The text introduced by the ruling Socialists "invites the French government to use the recognition of the state of Palestine as an instrument to gain a definitive resolution of the conflict".

But many opposition right wing MPs feel that such a vote at the moment could have exactly the opposite effect: harming the chances of a definitive peace - or at best, changing nothing. Most intend to vote against the motion.

France has already made known that it plans to recognise a Palestinian nation “when the time comes”, arguing that the two-state solution favoured by all EU nations logically implies recognition of Palestine.

Last week, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius of the ruling Socialist party, told French MPs the United Nations Security Council was working on a resolution to relaunch and conclude peace talks.

"A deadline of two years is the one most often mentioned and the French government can agree with this figure," he said.

Fabius also said France was prepared to host international talks to drive the peace bid forward.

"If these efforts fail. If this last attempt at a negotiated settlement does not work, then France will have to do its duty and recognise the state of Palestine without delay and we are ready to do that," stressed Fabius, without fixing a deadline for such a recognition.

Speaking on France Info radio station on Tuesday morning, UMP member of parliament Pierre Lellouche explained why he was against today’s vote.

He said that it was not the job of the French parliament to alter the country’s foreign policy, which is the prerogative of the French president under the constitution.

He pointed out that Hamas, which runs part of the Palestinian territories, is officially recognised by the European Union as a terrorist organisation.

He also feared the repercussions of such a vote in France, which has both Europe’s largest Jewish and Arab communities.

Lellouche and others on the right maintain that the Socialists put forward the motion in a bid to curry favour with muslims in France.

The vast majority of French muslims voted for the Socialists in presidential and parliamentary elections in 2012 but many have since turned away from the party, citing among their reasons, the decision to legalise marriage for gay couples.

Isabelle Guigou, who has drafted the motion, is MP for Saint Denis, which has a large muslim population.

Meanwhile Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last month expressed his exasperation at the French parliamentary vote.

"Do they have nothing better to do at a time of beheadings across the Middle East, including that of a French citizen?" he told reporters in Jerusalem, referring to hiker Hervé Gourdel who was executed by his jihadist captors in Algeria in September.
 

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