The Palestinians will submit a bid to become a full member of the United Nations, the top Palestinian diplomat said Thursday — despite threats from Washington that it would use its veto power in the Security Council to block the move.
The remarks by Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki put an end to speculation that the Palestinians might avoid a showdown with the United States by sidestepping the Security Council and going directly to the UN General Assembly to seek a lesser status as a non-member observer.
The announcement also comes just ahead of the arrival in the West Bank of a senior U.S. diplomatic team in a last-ditch effort to persuade the Palestinians to drop the bid.
Although Malki did not close the door on compromise, his comments signalled the chances of a breakthrough were slim.
Malki said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would present the statehood bid to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon after delivering his speech before the General Assembly on Sept. 23.
Any successful bid for UN recognition needs to go through the 15-member Security Council before going to the General Assembly where a majority two-thirds vote — or about 129 countries — is required.
The U.S. has said it would use its veto power to block an attempt at statehood.
The Palestinians could instead seek an upgraded observer status as a non-member state, which requires the support of two-thirds of the General Assembly.
This would likely succeed as roughly 120 countries, almost two-thirds of the UN membership, have said they recognize a Palestinian state.
Going through the Security Council could also prolong the process for months.
According to a Reuters report, Abbas has said achieving non-member status could give access to organizations like the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.
U.S., Israel oppose move
The U.S. has been on a diplomatic offensive to try to keep the Palestinians from going to the UN in their statehood quest, saying negotiations are the only way to produce a Palestinian state.
Washington said for the first time on Sept. 8 that it would use its veto power at the Security Council to prevent any full membership attempt, the same day the Palestinians launched an international PR campaign to drum up support for their bid.
Israel also opposes the UN move, which the Palestinians launched after concluding that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations —stalled for nearly three years — were not going to produce any breakthroughs at this time.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters Thursday he would call for a resumption of talks with the Palestinians and address the UN General Assembly next week, Reuters said.
"I have decided to convey these twin messages of direct negotiations for peace and the quest for peace," Netanyahu was quoted as saying. "I've decided to take this message to the UN General Assembly when I speak there next week."
Netanyahu said his speech would also focus on Israel's security needs, especially because of the current unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.
The last round of Israel-Palestinian talks broke down a year ago, just weeks after their launch. Negotiations over how the boundaries between Israel and a future Palestinian state could be shaped have been a contentious issue for decades.
The Canadian government said in July it would reject Palestinian efforts to achieve recognition at the UN, according to a report from The Canadian Press.
Although the UN does not technically recognize countries — this is something individual members do on a bilateral basis — non-member observer status could be considered to be an implicit form of recognition.