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Official: 51 states 'undecided' over Palestinian UN bid

Nov. 9, 2012 12:54 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 11, 2012 9:34 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Fifty-one countries are undecided over whether to support in its bid to become a non-member state of the UN, an Arab League official said Friday.

Mohammad Sbeih, secretary-general of Palestinian affairs at the Arab League, said 115 states were expected to vote for the upgrade while 27 countries would not support the bid.

Sbeih told Ma'an that 51 states were hesitant to support Palestine because of US pressure. Washington has lobbied against the PLO's UN bid.

Palestinian delegations are working to win the support of the undecided states, Sbeih said.

The PLO needs a simple majority vote in the 193-member General Assembly to win non-member observer status. Sbeih told Ma'an he expected a vote to take place on Nov. 15.

Sbeih said he had discussed the procedure for the vote with President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman on Wednesday. Abbas will attend a meeting of Arab foreign ministers on Nov. 12 to discuss the latest developments in the UN initiative.

The US has threatened to withdraw funding from the Palestinian Authority if it pursues the UN upgrade, which could grant Palestinians access to the International Criminal Court, where they could file complaints against Israel.

An Israeli official said earlier this week that if the PLO pushes on with the UN bid, Israel may cancel the Paris Protocol, a key economic accord it maintains with the cash-strapped PA.

PA Economy Minister Jawad al-Naji said Friday that the UN bid could exacerbate the government's financial crisis.

Al-Naji told Ma'an that Israeli restrictions on trade and investment had worsened the Palestinian economy in 2012. The minister said he expected further restrictions after the UN vote, and that Israel may stop transferring Palestinian tax revenues it collects on behalf of the PA.

The PA is working with various institutions to try and limit the impact of any sanctions arising from the UN bid, he said.

Al-Naji pointed out that Israel already prevents the PA and the private sector from exploiting Palestinian resources in over 60 percent of the West Bank, designated as "Area C" in the Oslo Accords.

The PA circulated a draft resolution to UN member states on Wednesday calling for the upgrade to its UN status. The draft resolution also reiterates the PA's commitment to the two-state solution.

If approved, the resolution would "accord to Palestine Observer State status in the United Nations system, without prejudice to the acquired rights, privileges and role of the Palestine Liberation Organization as the representative of the Palestinian people," according to a draft obtained by Reuters.

Frustrated that their bid for full UN membership last year failed amid US opposition in the UN Security Council, the PLO launched the watered-down bid for recognition as an "observer state," the same status given to the Vatican.

Israel and the United States have called on Abbas to return to peace talks instead of submitted the UN bid. Negotiations collapsed in 2010 over illegal Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.

The draft resolution would have UN member states express "the urgent need for the resumption and acceleration of negotiations within the Middle East peace process."

Several Western diplomats said US and European officials were lobbying the PA to delay the move to allow newly re-elected US President Barack Obama time to try to restart moribund Middle East peace talks.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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