Hague says UK will formally recognise Palestine as state in its own right if leaders agree to re-enter peace talks with Israel


Hague says UK will formally recognise Palestine as state in its own right if leaders agree to re-enter peace talks with Israel
The foreign secretary will tell MPs tomorrow that UK will vote for Palestinian United Nations non-member statusComes despite fears Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' push for vote to increase tensions with IsraelFrance already announced it will back Palestine in Thursday's vote

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UPDATED:

07:47 GMT, 28 November 2012


Vote: William Hague will tell MPs tomorrow the UK is willing to vote for Palestinian UN non-member status

Vote: William Hague will tell MPs tomorrow the UK is willing to vote for Palestinian UN non-member status

Britain is preparing to recognise Palestine as a state in its own right, senior officials have revealed.

Foreign Secretary William Hague will tell MPs tomorrow that the UK is willing to vote in favour of Palestinians having non-member status at the United Nations if their leaders agree to re-enter peace talks with Israel.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has decided to push ahead with the vote on Thursday despite fears that it will stoke further tensions with Israel after violence erupted in Gaza earlier this month.

British diplomats have urged Mr Abbas
not to push for the vote. But Mr Hague is expected to use a statement to
Parliament tomorrow to offer qualified backing for the Palestinians.

In a major strategic shift in British
foreign policy, the Foreign Secretary will say Britain would vote Yes if
Mr Abbas agrees to re-enter talks with Israel without preconditions.

The UK is also calling on the
Palestinians to ditch calls for the jurisdiction of the International
Criminal Court to include Israel, which is opposed by the Israeli
government.

Failure to tweak their motion would lead to Britain abstaining in Thursday’s landmark vote.

But Mr Hague is prepared to offer British backing after France today announced that it would support the Palestinians.

‘This Thursday or Friday, when the
question is asked, France will vote yes,’ Foreign Minister Laurent
Fabius announced in the French National Assembly.

A Yes vote by the UN General Assembly,
which includes all 193 nations in the UN, would not grant Palestine full
statehood – that would require a motion to be passed in the Security
Council – but it would be a major step towards that goal.

The
Palestinians are expected to win the General Assembly vote easily if it
goes ahead and the UK does not want to stand in its way.

Mr
Hague will make clear that British support would not necessarily extend
to backing full statehood in a Security Council vote, which would
almost certainly be vetoed by the USA.

The United States say Palestinian
statehood must be achieved by negotiation and has called on Abbas to
return to peace talks that collapsed in 2010 over Israeli settlement
construction in the occupied West Bank.

 French foreign minister Laurent Fabius announced today that France will vote yes (file picture)

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has decided to push ahead with the vote on Thursday

Support: Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, right, has decided to push ahead with the vote, which the French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, left, has said France will support

But the suggestion that the UK is prepared to give the Palestinians observer status is a major sea change in British diplomacy which has focused for years on balancing friendships with both Israel and the Palestinians.

A senior government source said: ‘We
are talking to the Palestinians and suggesting they could make some
changes to the resolution which would minimise the negative effects on
the peace process. In that case we would be minded to vote Yes.

‘There
are concerns about the jurisdiction of the International Criminal
Court. We’ve made clear there’s no automatic connection between what
happens in the General Assembly and the Security Council. Most
importantly, we would like Abbas to re-enter negotiations without
preconditions.

‘We don’t
think this is the right time for this vote but, given that the
Palestinians seem set on it, if they move in that direction we would be
inclined to support them. If they don’t we will probably abstain.’

Mr
Hague is leading intensive diplomatic efforts to avoid the total
collapse of the peace process. In recent days he has spoken to Mr Fabius
and to President Abbas. UK diplomats are working urgently in Ramallah,
Jerusalem, New York and Washington.

Tension: There are fears the vote could stoke further tension with Israel,l following the ceasefire, which was celebrated by Palestinians, pictured

Tension: There are fears the vote could stoke further tension with Israel,l following the ceasefire, which was celebrated by Palestinians, pictured

Violence: About 160 Palestinian people were killed in the eight day offensive in Gaza that has sparked renewed international debate over Palestine's UN status

Violence: About 160 Palestinian people were killed in the eight day offensive in Gaza that has sparked renewed international debate over Palestine's UN status

A Foreign Office spokesman said: ‘The only way to give the Palestinian people the state that they need and deserve, and the Israeli people the security and peace they are entitled to, is through a negotiated two-state solution.

‘We continue to advise President Abbas against attempts to win Palestinian observer state status at the UN General Assembly because it would make it harder to secure a return to negotiations, and could have very serious consequences for the Palestinian Authority.

‘But precisely because of the possible reactions of the US Congress and Israel, we must move heaven and earth to prevent the vote setting back the peace process and use our vote in whatever way we think will best assist progress towards a negotiated two state solution.’