The British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has announced that Great Britain will abstain from the upcoming United Nations Security Council (UNSC) vote regarding the granting of full UN membership to Palestine, only one day after France confirmed that they too would abstain.On September 23, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stood in front of the UN General Assembly (GA) and stated his intention to submit a bid to the UNSC for full UN membership and recognition of Palestine as a sovereign country.
With no vote date set as of yet, the UNSC is currently debating the sides of the bid in order to weigh the pro’s and cons. Whilst the delegates sitting on the Security Council continue to talk, President Abbas has been flying all around the world in an attempt to garner support for their bid.
Yesterday, Wednesday 9, Foreign Secretary William Hague delivered the disappointing news to the House of Commons during a Parliament session that the United Kingdom will be exercising its right to abstain from the vote. This announcement follows that of France, who confirmed that they would abstain only a day earlier.
Officially Great Britain supports a Palestinian state, but Mr. Hague stated that, “We reserve the right to recognize a Palestinian state bilaterally at a moment of our choosing and when it can best help bring about peace.”
He added that ‘Our primary objective remains a return to negotiations through the Quartet process and the success of those negotiations.”
Their reasoning seems to hinge on the U.S. vetoing, with the result being that Israel and Palestine come back to the negotiating table, a place Palestine left in September 2010, following Israel’s refusal to extend a moratorium on Settlement expansion and construction.
Mr. Hague also criticized Israel’s announcement last week of the acceleration of the construction of nearly 2,000 settlement units, claiming that the latest in a series of settlement drives was “Wrong and deeply counter-productive.”
Palestine currently holds permanent observer entity status, but they wish to obtain a full membership status at the GA, with the possibility to serve on the Security Council as a temporary non-permanent member.
To gain full membership, they require nine out of the fifteen SC members to give a yes vote, and also for none of the five permanent members (Britain, France, the U.S., Russia and China) to veto, which the White House has confirmed they will do if and when a vote comes to pass.
Russia and China support the bid, along with seven other non-permanent members of the UNSC, including Lebanon, South Africa, and the emerging world powers of Brazil and India. France confirmed they would also abstain, despite recently voting for Palestine to become a full member of UNESCO.
If the vote passes through the Security Council, the resolution must then be submitted to a general assembly vote, where they require a two-thirds majority. According to the BBC, 121 countries are in favour of granting Palestine full UN recognition, with 71 opposed.
The U.K.’s announcement comes as a blow for the Palestinian UN bid, but should the vote fail, they can seek a GA vote to grant them non-member observer status (the membership the Vatican currently holds). This is an interim status previously held by many countries, including Switzerland, and can lead to greater access to UN funds and bodies, as well as pulling them a step closer to achieving full UN membership and recognition.