Thu, Dec 04, 2014 - Page 7 News List

French MPs vote to recognize Palestine


French members of parliament in favor of the vote for the recognition of the Palestinian state stand and applaud after the success of the resolution, with 339 votes in favor for 151 against, in Paris, France, on Tuesday.

Photo: EPA

French lawmakers on Tuesday voted in favor of recognizing Palestine as a state, sparking an immediate angry reaction from Israel, which said such “unilateral measures” would harm efforts toward Middle East peace.

Following hot on the heels of similar votes in Britain and Spain, French members of parliament voted 339 to 151 in favor of a motion urging the government to recognize the state of Palestine as a way of achieving a “definitive resolution of the conflict.”

The vote — which is non-binding on the government, but highly symbolic — comes as European countries seek alternative ways to restart the stalled Middle East process.

Sweden’s government has gone even further, officially recognizing Palestine as a state in a controversial move that prompted Israel to recall its ambassador.

However, the French vote still prompted a swift and angry response from Israel, which said it would send the “wrong message” to the region and would be counterproductive to the peace drive.

“Israel believes that the vote in the National Assembly... will reduce the possibility of achieving a deal between Israel and the Palestinians,” its embassy in Paris said in a statement.

A solution to the conflict will be achieved “only with honest and direct talks between the parties and not by unilateral measures taken by one of the parties or by third parties,” it said.

The US also gave the French vote a cool reception, saying its position was unchanged.

“We support Palestinian statehood, but believe it can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties that resolve the final status issues,” US Department of State deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

She added, though, that “what you’re seeing are people around the world speaking out and saying the ‘status quo’ is unacceptable.”

The Palestinian leadership expressed its “gratitude” and urged Paris to “translate its parliament’s vote into action.”

The Palestinian Authority estimates that 135 countries have now recognized Palestine as a state, although that number is disputed.

During a debate on the issue on Friday last week, French Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius said Paris would recognize Palestine if diplomatic efforts failed again and urged a resolution to the Middle East conflict within two years.

France is spearheading a drive at the UN to unfreeze the moribund peace process and the Palestinian envoy to the UN said earlier on Tuesday a draft resolution could be submitted to the UN Security Council by the middle of the month.

Permanent Observer of Palestine to the UN Riyad Mansour said the text was set to lay out a timeframe for negotiations on a final peace deal and possibly a deadline for Palestinian statehood.

It would also pave the way for a last-ditch international conference that France has offered to host.

This European initiative was expected to be discussed in Brussels when US Secretary of State John Kerry holds talks with European ministers during this week’s NATO meeting.

At a pan-European level, the European Parliament is expected to hold a vote later this month on recognizing Palestine and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini is also pushing for the creation of a Palestinian state.

Meanwhile, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved an Arab-backed resolution on Tuesday calling on Israel to renounce possession of nuclear weapons and put its nuclear facilities under international oversight.

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