France to sit out Palestinian UN membership vote

AP News
Posted: Nov 04, 2011 9:56 AM
France to sit out Palestinian UN membership vote

France said Friday it would abstain when the U.N. Security Council votes on whether to admit Palestine as a full member of the world body, the latest blow to the Palestinians' push to gain majority support despite a promised U.S. veto.

Earlier this week, France voted to approve a similar Palestinian request for membership in UNESCO.

That vote came as something of a surprise for France, but the Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued at a regular online briefing Friday that it was meant to move forward the discussion of an independent Palestinian state.

France, like many other nations, walks a tightrope between support for the Palestinians and for Israel, and always pushes to play a decisive role in the peace process. The statement reiterated Paris' call for relaunching direct negotiations "without delay."

But the ministry said it had decided to abstain on any Security Council vote, noting that the measure has no chance of passing because of the promised American veto.

The Palestinians are still trying to rally the required nine-vote majority that would trigger the veto, believing that would give them a moral victory by placing the U.S. at odds with most of the international community.

The French Foreign Ministry also said it was worried that the vote and its failure could unleash a violent reaction.

Instead, France has offered to help Palestine elevate its status to that of a nonmember state _ a position set out by President Nicolas Sarkozy in a Sept. 21 address to the General Assembly.