France said on Tuesday it would vote in favor of Palestinian non-member status at the United Nations, boosting Palestinian efforts to secure greater international recognition.
Frustrated that their bid for full UN membership last year was thwarted by US opposition in the UN Security Council, Palestinians have launched a watered-down bid for recognition as a non-member state, similar to the status the Vatican enjoys.
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The proposal, which is due to be put to the vote in the General Assembly at the end of the week, would implicitly recognize Palestinian statehood. It could also grant access to bodies such as the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where the Palestinians could file complaints against Israel.
"This Thursday or Friday, when the question is asked, France will vote yes," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced in the French National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' bid seems certain to win approval in any vote in the 193-nation assembly. The United States say Palestinian statehood must be achieved by negotiation and has called on Abbas to return to peace talks that collapsed in 2010 over Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank.
"It is only with negotiations between the two sides that we demand immediately without any preconditions that a Palestinian state can become a reality," Fabius said.
France, a member of the UN Security Council, had under former President Nicolas Sarkozy promised to support Abbas if he opted for the upgrade option and broke from its closest allies last year voting in favor of giving the Palestinians full membership of the UN's cultural agency UNESCO.
The Palestinian envoy to the UN said France has taken a "historic" move in deciding to back the Palestinian move for UN recognition.
"It is of a magnitude of a historic level and I am sure that many other European countries will follow the example of France and we thank them in advance for being on the side of history and the side of humanity," Riyad Mansour told reporters.
"It is a good thing," Mansour added. "We worked hard with France, maybe we did not reach everything that each side wants, this is the nature of negotiations in the multilateral track."
Mansour compared the French government's decision to France's move last year when they voted in favor of Palestinian membership of UNESCO. It "is something that will always be appreciated by the Palestinian people and their leadership," he said.
Reuters, AFP contributed to the report