x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Arab League backs Palestinians' UN statehood bid

The Arab League has backed a Palestinian plan to ask the UN General Assembly to recognise a state of Palestine - but stopped short of setting a date for the bid.

RAMALLAH // The Arab League has backed a Palestinian plan to ask the UN General Assembly to recognise a state of Palestine - but stopped short of setting a date for the bid.

Instead, Arab League representatives meeting in Doha on Sunday asked a committee to prepare the UN appeal and report back on September 5, said Saeb Erekat, an aide to the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas.

"The Arabs decided to go to the UN to seek non-member state status for Palestine," Mr Erekat said. "It has been agreed that we will start preparing the legal, procedural and political file relating to the Palestinian application for non-state membership."

He added that ministers had approved plans to begin consultations with UN groupings such as the European Union, the African Group, the Non-Aligned Movement and the South American bloc, "to obtain their support for the Palestinian demand".

A statement from the Follow Up Committee said it supported Mr Abbas's plan and the diplomatic efforts to obtain non-state membership. The timing of the application is crucial, with a UN bid before November potentially disrupting the US presidential election campaign.

The US and Israel oppose the quest for unilateral recognition. They say a Palestinian state must be set up through negotiations.

Israeli-Palestinian talks broke down in 2008 and the two sides disagree on how to restart them.

The Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem - territories Israel captured in the 1967 war.

Israel has increasingly blurred the pre-1967 frontier by moving half a million Israelis into the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

The General Assembly could at best accept "Palestine" as a non-member observer state.

Palestinian officials have said the main purpose of winning General Assembly recognition is to reaffirm the 1967 lines as the borders of a future Palestinian state.

Last year, Mr Abbas sought full UN membership for the Palestinians but failed to win the necessary votes in the UN Security Council.

Palestinian officials have said they were confident they could win the required majority in the General Assembly.

The Palestinian foreign minister, Riad Malki, who also attended the Doha meeting, said the Palestinians would contact UN member states individually and in groups to establish their support. He said they would seek General Assembly recognition "when all other options are closed and there is no hope to return to negotiations".