PARIS (AP) — France's lower house of Parliament voted Tuesday to urge the government to recognize a Palestinian state, in the hope that it would speed up peace efforts after decades of conflict.
The 339-151 vote is non-binding, but it's a symbolic boost for the Palestinians, amid growing support in Europe for two states. The measure asks the government "to recognize the state of Palestine in view of reaching a definitive settlement to the conflict."
France's Socialist government supports a Palestinian state, but has said it's too early for recognition. France, a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council, wants peace talks to restart first.
Israel is committed to establishing a Palestinian state under a peace agreement, but says such resolutions encourage the Palestinians to avoid negotiations.
"We believe that such a decision will only radicalize the positions of the Palestinians and will send the wrong message to the leaders and people in this region," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said. The only way to peace, he said, is direct negotiations.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the French initiative was a "courageous and encouraging step."
The militant Hamas group ruling Gaza opposes negotiations with "the occupation" (Israel), the organization's spokesman, Ami Abu Zuhri, said. However, he told The Associated Press that Hamas views such European gestures as demonstrations of "the world's recognition of the Palestinians' right in gaining their national rights."
Washington reacted to the vote by saying Palestinian statehood can only come "through direct negotiations between the parties that resolve the final status issues," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
On Oct. 30, Sweden's government became the first Western European nation in the EU to recognize Palestinian statehood. Lawmakers in Britain, Spain and Ireland have approved non-binding motions urging recognition.
Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, Fares Akram in Gaza City, and Matthew Lee in Washington, contributed to this report.