Britain will abstain from the United Nations vote on the Palestinian bid for statehood, Foreign Secretary William Hague told Parliament Wednesday.
For the quest for full recognition to be adopted by the Security Council, the Palestinians need at least nine "yes" votes and must avoid a veto by any of the permanent council members: United States, Russia, China, Britain and France. The U.S. already has announced it will veto the resolution.
So far, according to diplomats, the Palestinians have six "yes" votes lined up with two more "yes" votes likely, based on statements made at an admissions committee meeting last week.
Hague said Britain thinks Palestine "largely fulfills" the criteria, but that the best way forward is through successful negotiations with Israel.
"For these reasons in common with France and in consultation with our European partners, the United Kingdom will abstain on any vote on full Palestinian membership of the UN," he said.
The announcement drew criticism from former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw _ who urged him to reconsider and back the Palestinian bid _ and from former Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell, who said the decision "is ultimately against British interests and will reduce our influence in the region."
Hague said Britain still plans to help the Palestinians build a state and will work to help alleviate poverty and strengthen institutions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
He urged Israel to resume face-to-face talks with the Palestinians and to drop settlement expansion plans.
"In our view, the parameters for a Palestinian State are those affirmed by the European Union as a whole: borders based on 1967 lines with equivalent land swaps; a just, fair and realistic solution for refugees; and agreement on Jerusalem as the future capital of both states," he said.
Hague said he informed Parliament of the government's plans because a vote on the matter will likely be held soon now that the Admissions Committee of the Security Council is close to producing its report on whether Palestine meets the U.N.'s requirements for membership.
When the 15 council members, which comprise the admissions committee, met last Thursday, diplomats said China, Russia, Brazil, India, South Africa and Lebanon had announced their support for Palestinian membership. They said Nigeria and Gabon will likely vote "yes."
France, Britain and Colombia indicated they would abstain and the United States said it would oppose the Palestinian bid, diplomats said.
Nigeria, Gabon, Germany and Portugal didn't announce a final position, and Germany and Portugal indicated they will abstain or vote "no."
Bosnia has said it is unable to make a statement because its three-member presidency is split on the issue which means it will most likely abstain, diplomats said.