France to Back Palestinian Bid for Enhanced UN Status

France on Tuesday said it will back a Palestinian bid for enhanced United Nations status at a General Assembly vote this week, just a year after a failed attempt to secure full state membership.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius recalled Paris's "consistent position" on the issue and told the National Assembly that France, one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, would vote for a "non-member observer state" status for the Palestinians.

"We will vote with coherence and clarity," he said.

"You know that for years and years France's consistent position has been the recognition of the Palestinian state," he said, recalling that former French president Francois Mitterrand had staked out that position in a 1982 speech to the Israeli parliament.

That line was unchanged even during the tenure of former rightwing president Nicolas Sarkozy when Palestine was admitted to UNESCO last year, he said, adding that recognition of Palestine was one of current President Francois Hollande's campaign planks.

"That is why when the question is raised on Thursday and Friday, France will respond with a 'yes'," he said.

The draft resolution seeking the status upgrade also calls on the UN Security Council to "consider favourably" the Palestinian request for full membership made one year ago.

The United States, Israel's staunch ally, had blocked that move at the 15-nation council.

Britain for its part has not yet decided whether it will vote for the resolution, said the country's UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant.

Lyall Grant told reporters that Britain believes the Palestinians should delay application from Thursday, but is still in talks with the Palestinian Authority and will decide "in due time" how to vote.

The Austrian foreign ministry also said Tuesday it would back the Palestinian bid and claimed that more than half of the European Union's 27 member states would vote for the proposal.

The new resolution will also call for a Middle East settlement that "fulfils the vision of two states, an independent, sovereign, democratic, contiguous and viable state of Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel, on the basis of the pre-1967 borders."

It also highlights the "urgent need" for a resumption of peace talks, frozen in September 2010 when Israel refused a Palestinian demand to extend a moratorium on settlement building in the occupied territories.

The United States and Israel have opposed the UN application, insisting that only direct talks on a peace accord can produce an agreement that will create a Palestinian state.

Fabius on Tuesday also highlighted the looming Israeli elections, the new administration of re-elected US President Barack Obama and what he called the "extremely fragile" nature of last week's ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

"It's only through immediate and unconditional negotiations between the two sides, which we are seeking, that one can fulfil the creation of a Palestinian state," he said.

The Palestinian territories are already gripped by their worst economic crisis in decades but the Palestinians say they are going to the UN General Assembly out of frustration at the lack of progress in peace talks during Obama's first term.

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