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Ireland likely to vote for increased Palestinian role at UN

The General Assembly will today vote on giving Palestine ‘non-member observer state’ – equivalent to the Holy See.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas addresses delegates at the UN General Assembly.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas addresses delegates at the UN General Assembly.
Image: Richard Drew/AP

IRELAND IS LIKELY to vote in favour of an increased Palestinian status at the United Nations, when the UN’s General Assembly votes on making Palestine a non-member observer state.

The 193-member body, with one representative from each member state, will vote on a motion which would give Palestine the same status as the Holy See – one which does not grant it UN membership, but allows it to take a more active role in UN affairs.

Yesterday, a government junior minister described the proposed resolution up for adoption today as “a modest step forward”, and as being in line with the two-state solution to the Middle Eastern peace process supported by both Ireland and the European Union.

Junior agriculture minister Shane McEntee, reading a statement on behalf of Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, said the proposals being put to a vote confirmed the need for Palestine and Israel “to negotiate a comprehensive peace agreement”.

This, he said, was a clear indication from the Palestinians that the bid for UN observer status was “not seen by them as a turning away from, or an alternative to, the peace process”.

McEntee acknowledged that a strong show of support for the motion would be “without doubt unwelcome by Israel”, but would also be a strong indication of “international impatience” with the recent conflicts in the region and the slow pace of any bilateral peace negotiations.

“A comprehensive peace process is still there to be had, and Ireland and the EU will do whatever it can to achieve that,” he said.

The adoption of the proposed resolution could “improve Palestinians’ access to other parts of the United Nations system”, McEntee added.

The minister said there would still be difficulties in allowing Palestine as a full member state, however, because there was no effective Palestinian government on the ground throughout the entirety of Gaza or the West Bank at present.

EU split over compromise motion

The current proposal for observer status for Palestine is seen as a compromise following the impasse over last year’s application from the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas for full membership of the UN – tantamount to an international declaration of full statehood.

This has stalled, as the General Assembly can only vote on an application for full UN membership after the Security Council makes a recommendation on the matter. So far the Council has failed to reach any conclusion on what recommendations may be made.

France and Spain have both explicitly offered their support for the resolution being voted upon today, while British foreign secretary William Hague has suggested the UK could abstain.

He told the House of Commons yesterday that the UK did not oppose Palestine’s application, but also wanted assurance that the Palestinians would not place any pre-conditions on their entry into new peace talks with Israel. Palestinian officials said Hague’s demands were “unrealistic”.

The diverging stance of the EU members is an unusual split; Ireland had stopped short of committing to vote in favour of last year’s proposal for full Palestinian membership of the UN, saying it would only act in accordance with an EU decision to vote en bloc.

A meeting of EU foreign ministers is taking place in Brussels this morning, but a preliminary agenda for the summit does not include any reference to the Middle East or to Palestine’s bid for an increased presence at the UN.

Read: Experts exhume remains of Yasser Arafat

Last year: Eamon Gilmore tells UN: Palestinian state is “long overdue”

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Gavan Reilly

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