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UN welcomes State of Palestine

The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution on Nov. 29 to upgrade Palestine to a "non-member state" at the United Nations, implicitly recognizing a Palestinian state. There were 138 votes in favor, nine against and 41 abstentions.  Addressing the assembly in New York ahead of the vote, President Mahmoud Abbas said the UN bid was the last chance to save the two-state solution. "Sixty-five years ago on this day, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 181, which partitioned the land of historic Palestine into two states and became the birth certificate for Israel," Abbas told the 193-nation assembly after receiving a standing ovation. "The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine."

Abbas told the UN that Israel's war on Gaza highlighted the urgency of ending the Israeli occupation. "It also reaffirmed the Israeli government's adherence to the policy of occupation, brute force and war," he said. "We believe that the international community is standing before the last chance of the two-state solution."

At least 17 European nations voted in favor of the Palestinian resolution, including Austria, France, Italy, Norway and Spain. Abbas had focused his lobbying efforts on Europe, which supplies much of the aid the Palestinian Authority relies on. Britain, Germany and others chose to abstain. The Czech Republic was unique in Europe, joining the United States, Israel, Canada, Panama and tiny Pacific Island states likes Nauru, Palau and Micronesia in voting against the move.

Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu immediately condemned Abbas' speech as "hostile and poisonous," and full of "false propaganda." He added in a statement released by his office after Abbas spoke: "These are not the words of a man who wants peace." 

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the vote "unfortunate and counterproductive," saying it puts more obstacles on the path to peace. US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice called for the immediate resumption of peace talks, saying, "The Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed save that the prospects of a durable peace have only receded." She added that both parties should "avoid any further provocative actions in the region, in New York or elsewhere."

The move falls short of full UN membership which needs sanction by the Security Council, where the US wields a veto. But it allows Palestine access to the International Criminal Court and other international bodies.

From Ma'an News Agency, Nov. 30

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