Austria is suggesting that the European Union work on its own resolution on a diplomatically delicate Palestinian bid for full UN membership, Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said on Saturday.
Asked by journalists at a meeting of EU foreign ministers whether the 27-nation bloc, which is split on the question, was working on its own resolution, Spindelegger said: “I have proposed that we’ll see how the consultations progress”.
“Of course we must also see what the Palestinians are really requesting, whether they are demanding recognition by the Security Council or whether they’ll go to the General Assembly, for a different sort of status,” he added.
“We must first clarify matters with them.”
Arriving for two days of talks in this Polish seaside resort on Friday, several ministers urged the EU to speak with a single voice just weeks before the Palestinians are to formally submit a request for membership.
But EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, as well as ministers, said a single position on the issue remained elusive, as the Palestinian proposal remained unknown.
“There is not a resolution before us on which we should take a decision … there are many discussions going on,” she said. “The Palestinians will have to decide which resolution they put forward.”
Europe stands divided on the question, with Germany and Italy publicly opposed but Spain pledging to vote in favour, on or around September 20, when world leaders gather in New York for the 66th session of the General Assembly.
Frustrated by the stalemate in peace talks with Israel, on hold since last September due to an intractable dispute over Jewish settlement building, the Palestinians are seeking statehood recognition despite staunch opposition from many quarters, notably Israel and the United States — and some Europeans.
“Unilateral steps are not reasonable,” said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. “We want a two-state solution to be reached through negotiations.”
While Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal sided with opponents of the Palestinian move, also calling for a peace deal “based on an agreement between all parties”, tiny Luxembourg urged a compromise.
Palestinians expect “more than 150” of the 192 UN member countries to endorse full Palestinian membership.
But this would fall short to ratify an application, which must be approved by the UN Security Council, where Washington has pledged to use its veto against the initiative.
The General Assembly however could raise the Palestinians’ standing at the UN from its current observer status as an organisation to that of a non-member state, like the Vatican.
If approved by two thirds of the General Assembly it would allow the Palestinians for instance to gain full membership of UN agencies such as WHO, UNESCO or UNICEF.