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UN General Assembly grants upgraded status for Palestine


UNITED NATIONS, (Xinhua): The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to grant an upgrade of Palestine's status from "entity" to "non-member state", which is an implicit and symbolic recognition of Palestine's statehood at the UN.

The 193 UN member states voted 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions, to support a draft resolution co-sponsored by about 70 countries, including China, Algeria, Angola, Brazil, Cuba, Jordan, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Senegal, South Africa, Tajikistan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

Countries like are Canada, the Czech Republic, Israel, Panama and the United States voted against the draft resolution.

Albania, Barbados, Bosnia, Fiji, Germany, Guatemala, Hungry, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Togo and other 30 countries abstained from voting.

After Vuk Jeremic, president of the 67th session of the General Assembly, announced the result of the vote, the applause came from the hall of the General Assembly. Many ambassadors and diplomats came to shake hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to express their congratulations.

"An important vote has taken place today in the General Assembly," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the General Assembly after the vote. "The decision by the General Assembly to accord Palestine Non-member Observer State status in the United Nations was a prerogative of the member states."

"I stand ready to fulfill my role and report to this Assembly as requested in the resolution," Ban said.

Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, Sudan's permanent representative to the United Nations, introduced the draft resolution to the General Assembly on behalf of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

"I call on every country to contribute to make the history and pave the way for the future by voting for the draft resolution," he said. His statement was greeted by applause at the General Assembly Hall.

The resolution "reaffirms the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to independence in their State of Palestine on the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967."

The General Assembly "decides to accord to Palestine non-member observer State status in the United Nations, without prejudice to the acquired rights, privileges and role of the Palestinian people, " said the resolution.

The General Assembly "expresses the hope that the Security Council will consider favorably the application submitted on 23 September 2011 by the State of Palestine for admission to full membership in the United Nations," it added.

The General Assembly also expressed the urgent need for the resumption and acceleration of negotiations within the Middle East peace process based on the relevant United Nations resolutions.

Peace talks between Israel and Palestine came to a halt in 2010 over the former's increasing construction in the West Bank settlements, which were condemned by the Palestinians, the international community and the Israeli center-left wing.

The Palestinians have demanded in the past to freeze the construction in the settlements before resuming peace talks.

Palestine's new UN bid is watered down compared to the full membership proposal that Abbas presented in September last year. This time he aims to ask the 193-member General Assembly to change the status to a non-member state.

Shortly before the vote, Abbas asked the UN body to "issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine."

Currently, Palestine is regarded as an observer "entity" at the United Nations. Acceptance of Palestine as a non-member state, similar to the Vatican's UN status, would implicitly recognize the Palestinian statehood.

The upgrade could also grant the Palestinian access to bodies like the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where they could file complaints against Israel, the occupying power.

On Nov. 29, 1947, the General Assembly adopted Resolution 181, which recognized the need to establish a Jewish state alongside an Arab state in the former British Mandate territory of Palestine.

The Palestinian Authority launched their watered-down bid for recognition as an "observer state" after an attempt to gain full UN membership last year failed due to strong U.S. opposition in the UN Security Council.

Israel and its closest ally, the United States, oppose the Palestinian move at the United Nations on the ground that peace can only be achieved through direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

"Today's unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path to peace," Susan Rice, U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, said while explaining the U.S. vote against the Palestinian move at the UN.

"Today's grand announcement will soon fade and the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow to find little of their lives has changed, save (that) the prospects of a durable peace have receded, " she said. "This resolution does not establish Palestine as a state."

Israel's UN ambassador Ron Prosor said the new resolution pushed the peace process "backwards".

"The only way to achieve peace is through agreements that are reached by the parties and not through the UN resolutions that completely ignore Israel's vital security and national interests," Prosor said, calling the resolution "one sided".

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