Palestinian Territories-United States-France

Sarkozy proposes solution to avoid clash with US over Palestinian bid

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called on the United Nations to admit the Palestinian Territories as a non-member state, upgrading its current status as simple observer, but opposing a bid for full membership. The move is aimed at avoiding a showdown between Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas and US President Barack Obama after Obama said the US would veto the bid. 

Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

Sarkozy warned a US veto at the Security Council could create a cycle of violence in the Middle East.

“Why not envisage offering Palestine the status of United Nations observer state?” he said. “It would mean emerging from a state of immobility that favours only the extremists. We would be restoring hope by marking progress toward the final status.”

If the Palestinian resolution does not get at least nine votes on the 15-member Security Council, the motion would fail. Five members - Brazil, China, Lebanon, Russia and South Africa – have expressed support for the move. Colombia says it will abstain while the remaining members, apart from the US, are undecided.

The Palestinians have said that if there is a US veto, they will go to the UN General Assembly to seek an elevated observer status similar to the one given to the Vatican. This requires only a simple majority.

Despite the threat of a US veto, Abbas has vowed to go-ahead with the application for membership on Friday with tens of thousands of Palestinians rallying in the occupied territories in support of the move.

Obama told the UN on Wednesday that there was no “shortcut” to peace in the Middle East. 

"I know that many are frustrated by the lack of progress. So am I. But the question isn't the goal we seek, the question is how to reach it," he said. "And, ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians, not us, who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and security; on refugees and Jerusalem."

The confrontation with Abbas is an embarrassment for Obama, who one year earlier had stood before the UN General Assembly calling for Palestinian membership within the year,

Obama later met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said he deserved a “badge of honour” for his defense of the Jewish state.

Israel is said to fear that even observer status for the Palestinians would allow them to join the International Criminal Court and file complaints against it.


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