Arabs to seek full Palestinian upgrade at U.N.: draft

Date: 7/14/2011

By Ali Sawafta

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – The Arab League will ask the United Nations to upgrade the Palestinians to full member status, a draft statement from a league meeting in Qatar said on Thursday.

"It was decided to go to the United Nations to request the recognition of the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital and to move ahead and request a full membership," said the communique, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.

The statement did not provide a timeline but Palestinian officials have said they want application to be made in time for the U.N. assembly in September. A Palestinian delegate said the Arab League had appointed a committee to determine dates.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a speech later on Thursday denounced such unilateral moves.

"If they (the Palestinians) really wanted peace they would sit down for negotiations, without preconditions. There is no replacement for negotiations. Unilateral steps will not bring peace closer and will not bring any solution," Netanyahu said.

Full member status would require approval in the Security Council, where Israel's ally the United States has said it will veto any such resolution.

The Palestinians, who currently have U.N. "observer" status, had previously pledged to seek U.N. endorsement in September for their claim of sovereignty in the Gaza Strip, and the Israeli–occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The move has gained momentum with the lack of progress in Israeli–Palestinian peace negotiations. The Arab League formally backed this plan in May.

But in the face of opposition from Israel and a number of world powers who say only negotiations can solve the conflict, the Palestinians had previously signaled they might opt for a more limited upgrade to "non–member state" status, which requires only General Assembly approval.

Palestinian analyst Talal Okal said the Arab League and Palestinians were aware of the obstacles they faced, including a U.S. veto, but had chosen to push forward because, with peace talks frozen, they saw no other diplomatic solution.

"The Arab consensus means that there is disappointment over the American position, that the negotiations have reached a dead end and that we have entered a stage of political battle," Okal said.

(Additional reporting by Nidal al–Mughrabi; Editing by Alison Williams)


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