news 29 Nov 12

Balkan States Cool on Palestine's UN Bid

Most Balkan countries appeared likely to abstain from Thursday’s vote on upgrading Palestine's status, which looked set to pass the General Assembly easily.


Most Balkan countries looked set to abstain from Thursday's vote on Palestine’s request for upgraded observer status at the United Nations.

The General Assembly appeared likely to endorse Palestine’s request on Thursday, despite threats by the United States and Israel to punish the Palestinian Authority by withholding much-needed funds for the West Bank government.

Montenegro says it was abstaining, as siding with the request risked “causing new divisions and differences. Own historical experience made us we believe in the supremacy of negotiations and agreements”.

Podgorica said it supported “the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for achieving statehood, as well as Israeli aspirations for the security of their own country”.

Neighbouring Croatia was also abstaining from the vote.

Serbia's decision was unclear. Vuk Jeremic, the Serbian President of the United Nations General Assembly, said only that "the Palestinian initiative to improve its status is historical and it is the honour of Serbia to preside [at the session]."

Macedonia did not indicate whether it would support Palestine's bid. But it abstained in last year’s vote on Palestine’s membership of UNESCO and Macedonia and Palestine do not have diplomatic ties.

Bosnia and Herzegovina was unlikely to support the Palestinian request because the three members of the State Presidency failed to reach consensus on the issue.

The resolution changing the Palestinian Authority’s UN observer status from “entity” to that of “non-member state,” like the Vatican, was expected to pass easily in the 193-nation General Assembly.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been leading the campaign to win support for the resolution.

Success will not mean full membership for Palestine at the UN, but will ease the path to membership of a number of international bodies as well as embarrassing the Israeli government, which campaigned vigorously against the vote.

The change in status will, for example, allow Palestine to join the International Criminal Court, ICC, at The Hague and obtain membership of about 30 other UN agencies.

Ahead of the vote, a number of EU states said they would vote "yes" to the request, including France, Spain, Norway, Denmark and Switzerland.

Those opposed or abstaining include the US, Israel, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands and Australia.

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