news 30 Nov 12

Serbia Breaks Balkan Ranks on Palestine Vote

Serbia was the only country in the Western Balkans to support Palestine's bid for upgraded observer status in the UN on Thursday's vote.

Bojana Barlovac
BIRN
Belgrade

Serbia was the only country in the region to support Palestine’s successful bid on Thursday for non-member observer status in the UN.

Member states voted 138-9 in favour of the vote, with 41 countries abstaining. Israel and the US had strongly opposed the proposal - but gained few to their side in the vote. The only "no" vote in Europe came from the Czech Republic.

Meanwhile, a number of EU states, including France, Spain, Norway, Denmark and Switzerland voted "yes". Those abstaining included Germany, Britain, the Netherlands and Australia.

The vote followed opposing speeches from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who asked the UN to “issue the birth certificate of Palestine,” and Ron Prosor, the Israeli Ambassador to the UN, said that the change would set back the peace process.

Vuk Jeremic, the Serbian President of the United Nations General Assembly, said that Serbia had been proud to preside over the vote.

"It is not easy to obtain simultaneous applause both from Palestine and Israel but today Serbia has risen to the historic occasion," Jeremic wrote on Twitter after the session.

The late Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito strongly supported the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the PLO.

After the Six Day War in 1967, Yugoslavia broke off diplomatic ties with Israel and officially recognized Palestine in 1988.

Three years later, after Yugoslavia had dissolved, Serbia re-established relations with Israel and since then it has been trying to find a balance between the two sides.

Neither Palestine nor Israel have recognized the independence of Kosovo, proclaimed in 2008, which Serbia strongly opposes.

On the eve of the UN session, Jeremic dismissed any parallels between Kosovo and Palestine, saying the UN had both affirmed Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo and Palestine's right to statehood.

"In the case of Kosovo and Metohija, the stance of the Security Council was clearly articulated in [1999 in] Resolution 1244, which reaffirms the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Serbia," Jeremic said.

He added that a number of Security Council resolutions had called for the formation and peaceful co-existence of separate Israel and Palestinian states.

The change in status for Palestine brings few immediate tangible benefits, though it will be able to join a number of UN agencies.

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