By William James
LONDON (Reuters) - British lawmakers voted in favor of recognizing Palestine as a state on Monday in a move which will not alter the government's stance on the issue, but which carries symbolic value for Palestinians in their pursuit of international recognition.
Britain does not classify Palestine as a state, but says it could do so at any time if it believed it would help peace efforts between the Palestinians and Israel.
Prime Minister David Cameron abstained from the vote, which was called by an opposition lawmaker, and Cameron's spokesman earlier said that foreign policy would not be affected whatever the outcome.
However, the vote was closely watched by Palestinian and Israeli authorities who are seeking to gauge European countries' readiness to act on Palestinian hopes for unilateral recognition by U.N. member states.
The final motion, which passed by 274 votes to 12 stated: "That this House believes that the Government should recognize the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution."
The vote comes just as Sweden's new center-left government is set to officially recognize Palestine, a move that has been condemned by Israel, which says an independent Palestine can only be achieved through negotiations.
(Editing by Stephen Powell, Crispian Balmer and Chris Reese)