Palestine’s status at the United Nations has been upgraded by a vote of the General Assembly.
The vote, passed with the support of 138 nations, means Palestine is now a “non-member observer state”, along with the Vatican City.
Palestine president Mahmoud Abbas. (Source: Washington Post)
Despite a large majority of support, the measure was opposed by nine members, including Israel, who the UN recognises as occupying the Palestinian territories. Despite relative consensus elsewhere, the vote strongly divided many Western nations. Major players in the European Union failed to reach a common stance, with support for the measure being granted by France, Spain and Italy, while the Czech Republic voted against it. The UK abstained, along with Germany, Poland and the Netherlands.
The United States staunchly opposed the resolution, with their permanent representative, Susan Rice, noting immediately after its passage that: “This resolution does not establish that Palestine is a state.” She went on to say that the US “will continue to oppose firmly any and all unilateral actions in international bodies or treaties that circumvent or prejudge the very outcomes that can only be negotiated, including Palestinian statehood.”
Any attempt to join the United Nations as a full member state will require the approval of the Security Council, where the US enjoys a veto right that they would almost certainly exercise to block any such attempt by Palestine, despite indications of support from other permanent members Russia and China, who joined France in supporting the measure.
The UK – who also have a veto right in the Security Council – were one of the 41 nations who abstained from the resolution. British representative Mark Lyall Grant explained that the UK “sought a commitment from the Palestinian leadership to return immediately to negotiations without preconditions,” and their failure to do so prevented a British vote in favour.