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Malta among a few EU members backing Palestinian bid to join UN

Malta is one of a few EU member states supporting Palestine’s demand for official statehood recognition at a United Nations level.

EU sources said Malta was supporting the demand together with Belgium, Cyprus, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. However, when asked about Malta’s stand, a Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman preferred to remain non-committal saying “the matter is still being discussed at EU level”.

Some of the larger member states, including France, Germany, Italy, Poland and the UK, have not yet taken a position and seem to be against the idea. Some members seem reluctant to jeopardise their relations with Israel and the US by supporting the move.

The issue, which has so far split member states, involves a decision by the Palestinian Authority to seek UN recognition of the Palestinian state and become a full member. Palestine is classified as a “non-member entity”.

The official request is expected to be submitted to the UN General Assembly next week. To be accepted, the bid needs the approval of the Security Council. The US, a permanent member, has already made it clear it will oppose such a move.

The issue was discussed at length during a meeting in Poland last weekend but no compromise was found.

Several EU foreign ministers underlined the need to adopt an EU common stand and that the bloc should have one voice on this.

Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere said that, for those who truly wanted a solution in the Middle East, it was clear that a unified EU position was crucial. On the other hand, France’s Alain Juppè feared there would be a “sterile and dangerous” diplomatic confrontation at the UN.

While the EU mulls the stand it should take over this sensitive issue, the Palestinian Authority has proceeded with its plans. Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian official, this week expressed hope that European states, which had already backed the two-state solution in the Middle East conflict, would declare their support to the Palestinian bid to seek full UN membership as a state.

Mr Erekat said Palestinians and Arabs had stepped up contacts to persuade EU countries to vote for the Palestinian request.

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