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UN Council debates Palestine's statehood bid, but no vote

By William M. Reilly (Xinhua)

08:42, October 25, 2011

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- The UN Security Council's monthly debate on the Middle East on Monday focused, not unusually, on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but this time with more passion because it was only last month the Palestinians announced their intention to seek statehood.

"It is time for the Security Council to shoulder its responsibilities by approving our application and making positive recommendation to the General Assembly for Palestine's admission to membership," said Riyad Mansour, Palestine's permanent observer to the United Nations. "This would be the most just and appropriate outcome of this process."

It was on Sept. 23 when Palestinian National Authority (PNA) President Mahmoud Abbas officially applied to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who then forwarded it onto the UN Security Council.

The full panel of 15 referred it to a committee to study the request and decide whether to send it back to the full council for a vote.

Without the full council's approval the application for statehood dies. Its future already is grim since the United States, wielding a permanent member's veto, has vowed to reject the application.

But, a vote may not come until next year.

"Of course we are aware of the difficulties," Mansour told the council. "But we cannot accept attempts to extend or postpone this exercise indefinitely at the expense of the merits of Palestine's application and its long overdue and rightful inclusion on the community of nations."

The U.S. and Israel say the Palestinian attempt to go directly to the world organization before settling outstanding issues bilaterally with Israel, bypasses the Middle East peace process.

The latest talks between Israel and Palestine collapsed in September 2010 when Israel failed to renew a moratorium on settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, prompting the Palestinians to withdraw from negotiations.

Ron Prosor, the UN permanent representative for Israel, called Palestine's attempt "unilateral" and a "march of folly."

"Members of the international community should be clear about their responsibilities: You vote for it, you own it," said the Israeli envoy, adding those who vote for unilateral recognition " will be responsible for its consequences. The Palestinians'true friends will encourage them to put aside the false idol of unilateralism and get back to the hard work of direct negotiations. "

But, Mansour said there is "no contradiction" between resumption of bilateral talks with Israel and Palestine's quest for statehood at the UN. He said the rights of the Palestinian people to autonomy and an internationally recognized state are not up for negotiation.

Prosor downplayed at the Palestinians' ability to meet "the basic criteria for statehood."

The Israeli ambassador said, "The president of the Palestinian Authority has zero authority in the Gaza Strip. Before he flies 9,000 kilometers to New York to seek UN membership, he should drive 50 kilometers to Gaza, where he has been unable to visit since 2007."

The split between Hamas and Fatah widened when Hamas in 2006 overtook pro-Abbas forces in the Gaza Strip. China welcomed the Palestinian bid and deplored Israel's settlement construction in Jerusalem.

"We urge Israel to stop the project immediately, actively coordinate international peace efforts, and create condition for establishing mutual trust between the two sides and break the impasse," said Li Baodong, Chinese Ambassador to the UN, adding that Beijing welcomed the recent agreement between the two sides on the exchange of prisoners.

"China hopes Israel and the Palestinians take this opportunity to continue to implement constructive measures to ease tensions, narrow down differences in order to restart the peace talks at an earlier date," he noted.

China hopes all parties concerned to make joint efforts for early resumption of peace talk and substantial results and supports the Security Council in playing a bigger role in solving the Middle East question, Li said.

Thomas Mayr-Harting, head of the European Union delegation to the United Nations, said the EU "deplores the recent Israeli decisions to advance settlement expansion" in Gaza, reiterating EU 's position that such settlements "are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two- state solution impossible."

At the same time, he said the EU "welcomes the outcome of reports which state that the PA (Palestinian Authority) is above the threshold for a functioning state in the key sectors studied by the UN, IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank," adding the EU was dedicated to supporting "the PA's state-building efforts."

Brazil's UN Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Vietti said her nation believes "the time has come for Palestine to be fully represented at the United Nations."

"We hope the Council can take a decision on the Palestinian application very soon," she said. "The ultimate demonstration that Palestine is a peace-loving state is precisely the decision to turn to international law and multilateral institutions to realize its legitimate right to self-determination."

"Recognition of the Palestinian people's legitimate right to sovereignty and self-determination increases the possibilities of peace in the Middle East," she added.

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