French MPs poised to recognise Palestine

 French lawmakers were poised Tuesday to recognise Palestine as a state, following similar moves in Britain and Spain that reflect growing European frustration with the stalled Middle East peace process.

Paris: French lawmakers were poised Tuesday to recognise Palestine as a state, following similar moves in Britain and Spain that reflect growing European frustration with the stalled Middle East peace process.

The highly symbolic vote in the lower house National Assembly is not binding on French government policy but is likely to spark fury in Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned it would be a "grave mistake."

The text of the motion invites Paris to recognise the state of Palestine "as an instrument to gain a definitive resolution of the conflict" and is expected to pass comfortably with the support of the ruling Socialists.

Palestinians are seeking to achieve statehood in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank with east Jerusalem as the capital. With little progress on reaching a settlement, they have been lobbying foreign powers for international recognition.

During a debate on the issue on Friday, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius stressed that Paris would recognise Palestine if diplomatic efforts failed again and urged a resolution to the Middle East conflict within two years.

France is spearheading a drive at the United Nations to unfreeze the moribund peace process and the Palestinian envoy to the UN said earlier Tuesday a draft resolution could be submitted to the Security Council by mid-December.

Riyad Mansour told AFP the text was set to lay out a timeframe for negotiations on a final peace deal and possibly a deadline for Palestinian statehood.

It would also pave the way for a last-ditch international conference that France has offered to host.

"If these efforts fail. If this last attempt at a negotiated settlement does not work, then France will have to do its duty and recognise the state of Palestine without delay and we are ready to do that," Fabius told MPs on Friday.The French vote comes hot on the heels of a near unanimous vote in favour of recognising Palestine in the British and Spanish parliaments, as Europeans seek alternative ways to push forward efforts towards peace.

Sweden`s government went even further, officially recognising Palestine as a state in a controversial move that prompted Israel to recall its ambassador.

At a pan-European level, the European Parliament is expected to hold a vote later this month on recognising Palestine and EU foreign policy supremo Federica Mogherini is also pushing for the creation of a Palestine state.

"Governments and parliaments are taking action. That momentum will grow," said United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon last month.

However, lawmakers in Paris are likely to be more divided on the issue than their British and Spanish counterparts, reflecting the sensitivity of the debate in France, which is home to Europe`s largest Jewish and Muslim communities.

The main centre-right opposition party, the UMP, is largely expected to vote against the motion.

Senior UMP lawmaker Laurent Wauquiez told French television ahead of the vote that it would have "no impact", adding: "For me, it`s the president of the Republic who defines France`s foreign policy."

France was the scene of several pro-Palestinian demonstrations during this summer`s 50-day offensive by the Israeli army in Gaza that killed more than 2,000 Palestinians and dozens of Israelis.

Some of these turned violent with looters in July destroying Jewish businesses and shouting anti-Israel obscenities in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles -- sometimes known as "Little Jerusalem" for its large community of Sephardic Jews.

The Jewish Agency for Israel, an advocacy group, said in September that more Jews had left France for Israel than from any other country in 2014, blaming a "climate of anti-Semitism."

The Palestinian Authority estimates that 135 countries have now recognised Palestine as a state, although that number is disputed and several recognitions by EU member states date back to the Soviet era.

An AFP count puts the number of states that recognise Palestine at 112.