UN Council takes first step on Palestinian UN bid

Israel and the United States oppose the move and consider it a step back from long-stalled peace talks.

United Nations: The UN Security Council takes its first step Monday to consider the Palestinian request for UN membership.

The council will meet behind closed doors for an initial discussion of the application submitted Friday by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to become the 194th member of the United Nations.

Israel and the United States oppose the move and consider it a step back from long-stalled peace talks, and the US has said it will veto a resolution recommending membership.

Nonetheless, diplomats said the council is moving ahead — as it does with all applications it receives. The Palestinians have demanded that there be no politically motivated delays.

The council will hold a formal meeting Wednesday to transmit the bid to a committee on admission of new members which includes all 15 council nations, diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because consultations have been private.

On Friday, diplomats said ambassadors from the committee nations will hold a private informal meeting. How fast the committee acts remains to be seen.

Abbas formally submitted an application for UN membership to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday, and he transmitted it to the council.

The Palestinian president turned to the UN in frustration after nearly two decades of unsuccessful peace efforts that were derailed at various times by violence, indecision and intransigence. Abbas says he will return to the negotiating table only if Israel halts settlement construction and accepts the pre-1967 War borders as the basis for talks.

The Palestinians want the Security Council to recognize an independent Palestine in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip — areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. Some 500,000 Jewish settlers now live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

The United States, Britain, France and other council members are likely to try to hold up consideration of the application while they press for a resumption of long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, diplomats said.

The Quartet of Mideast mediators — the US, European Union, Russia and UN — on Friday issued a statement calling for a resumption of peace talks without preconditions in a month, and a target for a final agreement by the end of 2012.

The Security Council must recommend Palestinian admission to the 193-member General Assembly which must then approve it by a two-thirds majority.

If the Palestinians fail to win UN membership, they can turn directly to the General Assembly, where there are no vetoes and a number of options including seeking to raise their status at the UN from a permanent observer to a non-member observer state. That would give them the possibility of joining UN agencies and becoming parties to treaties including the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court.

Bureau Report

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