New York: The Palestinians said on Friday their leaders will decide quickly whether to seek a vote in the Security Council on their bid for UN membership — even though they face certain defeat — or to pursue other UN options.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN observer, said the Palestinians would be consulting Arab leaders and supporters on their next steps after the council`s admissions committee approved a report saying there is no consensus among the 15 council nations on the membership application.
The admissions committee sent the report to the Security Council after a brief closed meeting on Friday. Council president Jose Filipe Moraes Cabral of Portugal said members will examine it and discuss possible future actions, but he gave no timetable.
Council diplomats said they were waiting to see what action the Palestinians want to pursue.
The report said the council is divided among those who support Palestinian membership, those who can`t support it now and therefore would abstain, and those who believe the application doesn`t meet the criteria for membership and oppose it.
For Palestine to become a UN member state, it needs the recommendation of the Security Council. That requires nine "yes" votes — which the Palestinians don`t appear to have — and no veto by a permanent member.
The United States, Israel`s closest ally, insists on a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before Palestine joins the UN and says it will veto a resolution recommending its membership now, if necessary.
The admissions committee report gave no names or numbers but China, Russia, Brazil, India, South Africa and Lebanon have announced their support for Palestinian membership, and Nigeria and Gabon would likely also vote "yes." France, Britain, Colombia and Bosnia have announced they would abstain, and diplomats said Germany and Portugal will abstain or vote "no."
Mansour said that if the leaders decide to pursue a vote on a Security Council resolution and it fails, "there is nothing to be ashamed of."
He noted that Israel, Jordan, Italy, Kuwait and many other countries weren`t admitted to the United Nations on their first attempt.
"We are dead determined to succeed in this exercise, and I believe we will," he told reporters. "We do deserve to become a full member ... so we will intensify our efforts with our friends in order to achieve that objective, and we hope that we can do it soon because the Security Council will remain engaged with our application until we prevail and until we succeed."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking in Tunisia, said the Palestinians would never give up their quest for UN membership.
"This does not mean it is a failure," he said of the council divisions. "We will continue our efforts and hope to succeed next time."
Abbas said the Palestinians were ready to resume negotiations with Israel "because we believe that outstanding issues can be resolved through negotiation."
The United States — alone and with the UN, European Union and Russia — has been unsuccessful in prodding Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. The Palestinians have refused to resume talks until Israel stops building Jewish settlements on occupied land.
Abbas called on the US administration to "change its attitude and engage in more serious mediation."
"We have close relations with the United States on both the diplomatic level and aid they give us, but we want them to put pressure on the offending party," he said.
Mansour touted Palestinian gains in international support, including Palestine`s recent election to membership in the U.N. cultural organization, UNESCO, and its recognition as a state by two-thirds of the members of the 193-nation UN General Assembly.
He said recognition by UNESCO "means that in the UN system, there is no discussion any more whether the nation, Palestine, the state, Palestine ... exists or not. Now it is the fact that we do exist in the UN system as a state."
Mansour mentioned one other option — going to the General Assembly, where there are no vetoes, to raise the Palestinians` UN status from a permanent observer to a nonmember observer state, like the Holy See.
He predicted that if the Palestinians decide to take this option they will have strong support, including from European nations. He noted that 11 European Union members, including France and Spain, supported Palestinian membership in UNESCO along with Norway and Iceland.