By Kim Willsher
10:38 AM PST, November 27, 2012
PARIS -- France said Tuesday it will support an elevated status for the Palestinian Authority at the United Nations, the first major European power to endorse such an action by the U.N. General Assembly.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said his country would vote in favor of “non-member observer status” for the Palestinians at an Assembly meeting Thursday.
The vote comes a year after the Palestinian Authority failed to secure full state membership, an effort that was blocked by the Obama administration.
Fabius, speaking to France's National Assembly – the lower house of parliament – said France, one of five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, had held a “consistent position” on the issue.
“We will vote with coherence and clarity. You know that for years and years France's consistent position has been the recognition of the Palestinian state,” he said.
“That is why when the question is raised on Thursday and Friday, France will respond with a 'yes'.” His statement was greeted with a round of applause.
The new status would not give the Palestinian Authority full membership in the General Assembly but would be seen as implicit recognition of statehood and could allow for membership in other bodies, including the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where the Palestinian Authority could file complaints against Israel.
The Palestinian Authority's draft resolution calls on the Security Council to “consider favorably” its request for full membership.
France last year voted in favor of giving the Palestinians full membership in UNESCO, the U.N'.s cultural agency, but stopped short of supporting full membership in the U.N., because of the American opposition.
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy supported the Palestinian bid for U.N. membership and his successor, François Hollande, pledged to do so in his election campaign.
“The moment that this question is going to be asked is a very delicate moment. Because the cease-fire [in Gaza] is extremely fragile, because there are elections in Israel, because there is a change in the composition of the American administration,” Fabius told members of parliament.
“It is only by immediate and unconditional negotiation between the two sides, which we are demanding, that one can fulfill the creation of a Palestinian state,” he said.
The Austrian foreign ministry also said Tuesday it would back the Palestinian resolution. More than half of the European Union's 27 member states are expected to vote in favor.
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