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UN chief: Palestinian statehood 'long overdue'

Sept. 9, 2011 9:25 A.M. (Updated: Sept. 11, 2011 11:24 A.M.)
CANBERRA (AFP) -- United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Palestinian statehood was "long overdue", a day after its leadership launched a campaign to become the world body's 194th member state.

"The two state vision where Israel and Palestinians can live ... side by side in peace and security -- that is a still a valid vision and I fully support it," he told reporters in Canberra.

"And I support also the statehood of Palestinians; an independent, sovereign state of Palestine. It has been long overdue."

"But... the recognition of a state is something to be determined by the member states," he added.

"It is not by the Secretary General so I leave it to the member states to decide to recognise or not to recognise."

Ban, who has been in Australia as part of a sweeping Pacific tour which has taken him to New Zealand, the Solomon Islands and Kirabati, called for "meaningful negotiations" to resolve the issue.

The United Nations leader's comments came after Palestinians Thursday launched their campaign to join the UN.

Their "National Campaign for Palestine: State 194" is part of the build-up to September 20, when president Mahmud Abbas is expected to submit a formal request that the UN accept Palestine as a member.

However, Washington has already confirmed it would veto any bid, a move also opposed by Israel.

The official Palestinian campaign of support for the bid got under way with about 100 people marching to UN headquarters in the West Bank Thursday to hand a letter to the UN representative asking that Ban support them.

If the bid is vetoed in the Security Council, the Palestinians plan to turn to the General Assembly where they are expected to easily win the votes needed to upgrade their representation from observer body to non-member state.

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