BRUSSELS (EJP)---After France, Spain said Wednesday it will back a Palestinian bid for enhanced UN status at the body’s General Assembly on Thursday.
"Spain will vote 'yes' tomorrow to the Palestinian request in line with our history," Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo told the parliament.
Earlier, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius similarly announced his country’s support for the Palestinian move, the first by a major EU member state. Austria did the same.
Spain believes the Palestinian bid to upgrade its status rom a UN General Assembly observer entity to that of a non-member observer state was « the best way to move towards peace, » he said.
"We would have preferred as a government if we had not been obliged to arrive at a vote because that would have meant that peace negotiations had advanced," he said.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas is expected to submit the upgrade request to the 193-member UN General Assembly on Thursday.
If approved, it will give the Palestinian Authority access to several UN agencies and also potentially to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
"We believe joining this petition will strengthen the position of Abbas who is the one both inside and outside of Palestine who has made a strong bid for dialogue and negotiation," Spain's foreign minister said.
The United States and Israel oppose the UN application and said only direct talks on can produce an agreement that will create a Palestinian state.
The European Union is unlikely to come up with a unified position on the issue, highlighting the division among the 27-nation body on this issue.
The Austrian foreign ministry said Tuesday it would back the Palestinian bid, too, and claimed that more than half the European Union's 27 member states would vote for it. Denmark announced a similar position.
Spain's Foreign Minister said Madrid would have preferred that the European Union vote together."Up to the last second we have been working to achieve consensus among the 27 member states," Garcia-Margallo said. "It was not possible and we have had to take the unilateral option."
Spain maintains its traditional support for a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. "We have always been committed to the two-state solution and will continue doing everything in our power to make it happen," Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Tuesday at a press conference in Madrid with visiting Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Britain, another major EU power, is likely to abstain in the vote. Foreign Minister William Hague said his country would not oppose moves to recognise the Palestinians as a "non-member observer state".
But, according to the BBC, he said he needed a number of assurances, principally that the Palestinians would seek negotiations with Israel "without pre-conditions".
In a statement to the House of Commons, Hague set out the conditions he said were needed for the UK to back the move. The first was an "indispensable" assurance had to be given by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that the Palestinians were committed to return to negotiations with Israel without any conditions.
He said the Palestinians must also agree not to seek membership of International Criminal Court (ICC). »Up until the time of the vote itself, we will remain open to voting in favour of the resolution, if we see public assurances by the Palestinians on these points," Haguer said.
"However, in the absence of these assurances, the UK would abstain on the vote. This would be consistent with our strong support for the principle of Palestinian statehood, but our strong concern that the resolution could set the peace process back."µ
Germany and the Netherlands have said in advance that they will not support the Palestinian bid. Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said the move would not contribute to the peace process.
At a vote last year on a Palestinian membership at Unesco, the UN body for science and culture, 11 EU member states voted in favor (France, Austria, Belgium, Spain, Finland, Greece, Cyprus, Ireland, Malta, Slovenia, Luxembourg) while five countries were opposed (Germany, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Holland and Sweden) and and 11 abstained (Britain, Italy, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Romania, Hungary, Poland, Latvia, Portugal and Slovakia).
Lithuania and Belgium said this time they would abstain.
The official EU position is opposed to Palestinian unilateral moves and calls for a resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.