By LORI HINNANT Associated Press
The vote is largely symbolic, the outcome nearly assured: The Palestinians and Israelis are closely watching the evolving positions of a few key countries in today’s U.N. General Assembly resolution to raise the Palestinians’ status from a U.N. observer to a nonmember observer state. The measure only requires a majority and is all but certain to pass.
The United States and Israel are strongly opposed, saying they fear it will only slow progress toward a peace deal.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been lobbying Western countries, particularly in Europe, in hopes of presenting a broad international consensus against Israel. The international boost will also help him in his rivalry with Hamas, which gained popularity with Palestinians after battling Israel during eight days of fighting earlier this month.
Two-thirds of U.N. member nations have already recognized the state of Palestine.
IN FAVOR OR LEANING THAT WAY:
– FRANCE: Yes. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius made the announcement before parliament. “In any case, it’s only through negotiations – that we ask for without conditions and immediately between the two sides – that we will be able to reach the realization of a Palestinian state,” Fabius said Tuesday.
– CHINA: Yes. The foreign minister reaffirmed support for Palestinian aspirations at the U.N. during a meeting last Friday with a Palestinian envoy.
– SPAIN, NORWAY, DENMARK and SWITZERLAND: All announced Wednesday they would vote yes. The Swiss government called a change in status “both constructive and pragmatic.”
– AUSTRIA: Yes. Martin Weiss, the foreign ministry spokesman, said Austria decided to vote for the resolution after it became clear there would be no common EU position.
– ICELAND. Yes. Iceland’s foreign ministry said the country was “at the forefront of states that support the Palestinian cause” and hoped the resolution will help Palestine become a full-fledged UN member state.
– IRELAND: Yes. Ireland, which has long sympathized with the Palestinians, said it hoped the measure “will encourage the Palestinian people that they are slowly coming towards their goal,” government minister Shane McEntee told the country’s parliament.
– RUSSIA: Probably yes. It supported Palestinian membership in the U.N. cultural agency, UNESCO. The Russian Foreign Ministry said it “believes that the Palestinians have the right for such a move” but it added “we hope that the Palestinian leadership has well calculated possible consequences of such action.”
– INDIA: Yes.
– GREECE: Yes.
OPPOSE, ABSTAIN, OR LEANING THAT WAY
– UNITED STATES: Opposed. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said U.N. recognition of an independent Palestine won’t help to reach a lasting two-state peace agreement and stressed that the “path to a two-state solution that fulfills the aspirations of the Palestinian people is through Jerusalem and Ramallah, not New York.”
– CANADA. Opposed. Canada is a staunch ally of Israel. Rick Roth, a spokesman for Canada’s foreign minister, said any two-state solution must be negotiated and mutually agreed upon by both states. Roth said any unilateral action is ultimately unhelpful.
– GERMANY: No or abstain. It’s “very certain that Germany will not vote for such a resolution,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert. Officials aren’t saying whether that will translate into a no vote or an abstention.
– NETHERLANDS: Probably no. “Lasting peace in the region can only be reached if Israel and the Palestinians return to the negotiating table to reach a final agreement over a two-state solution,” according to a letter the foreign minister sent to parliament this week.
– BRITAIN: Possibly abstain. The foreign secretary said Britain could support the measure only if there were a clear commitment by the Palestinians to return immediately and unconditionally to negotiations with Israel. “While there is no question of the United Kingdom voting against the resolution, in order to vote for it we would need certain assurances or amendments,” said William Hague.
– AUSTRALIA: Abstain, according to Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Her government is divided on the issue, but Gillard told Parliament “bipartisan policy across the major parties in this parliament to support Israel, to support peace in the Middle East, to support two states in the Middle East.”
Associated Press writers George Jahn in Vienna, Austria; Danica Kirka in London; Jamey Keaten in Paris; Rob Gillies in Toronto; Nirmala George in New Delhi; and Christopher Bodeen in Beijing; Elena Becatoros in Athens; Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin; and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed.