Germany confirms it won’t support Palestinian statehood bid, UK to abstain


Germany on Wednesday announced its opposition to the Palestinian bid to upgrade its status at the United Nations to a nonmember state, but did not indicate whether it would vote against or merely abstain.

“We are assessing the situation and want as much agreement as possible with our European partners…. But it is certain that Germany will not vote for such a resolution,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert told journalists.

Contrary to earlier reports that London would vote in favor of the Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations on Thursday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Wednesday that the UK would probably abstain in the upcoming General Assembly vote.

Hague said that the UK would only vote in favor should Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas commit to not using its new status to pursue war crimes charges against Israel in international courts, and agree to immediately resume peace talks with the Jewish state.

“Up until the time of the vote itself, we will remain open to voting in favor of the resolution, if we see public assurances by the Palestinians on these points,” Hague told MPs on Wednesday.

Australia also said it would abstain.

The Palestinians’ bid for upgraded, nonmember observer state status at the United Nations received major boosts Tuesday after France, Spain and Switzerland announced that they would support the move. On Wednesday, Norway and Denmark also said they would vote “yes” on the Palestinian proposal.

Although the motion appeared to be virtually assured to pass at the General Assembly in any case, Western powers had hesitated to offer their support while the United States and Israel opposed it.

PA official Tawfiq Tirawi had told Reuters that the Palestinians would take Israel to task for Yasser Arafat’s purported assassination at the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

“We need proof in order to find those who are behind this assassination and take it to the ICC,” he said. “When we have proof, we will go to the ICC for it to be our first case to try those whose policy is assassinations.”

Later on Tuesday, though, Palestinian UN observer Riyad Mansour told a news conference at the United Nations that the Palestinians would not rush to sign up to the International Criminal Court.

Some European diplomats have warned that failure to support Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “could risk further undermining his increasingly weak position, to Hamas’s advantage,” the Guardian reported.

Earlier Tuesday, AP reported that France had become the first major European country to come out in favor of the Palestinian motion, with the timing of the announcement appeared to be aimed at swaying other European nations.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Parliament that France had long supported Palestinian ambitions for statehood and “will respond ‘Yes’” when the issue comes up for a vote “out of a concern for coherency.”

By that point, Israel had already backtracked on its threat to dismantle the Oslo Accords in response to the bid.

“We won’t cancel any of our agreements,” a senior official said. However, the official said, Jerusalem still considers Abbas’s unilateral step to seek nonmember state status at the UN a grave violation of agreements signed with Israel, and vowed that Israel would “respond accordingly.”

Israel will quietly await Thursday’s vote before deciding on sanctions, the official said. If the Palestinians go ahead with the vote, Israel will consider a series of punitive steps, such as seeking to call in Palestinian debts, he added, by way of example.

Sam Ser contributed to this report. 


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