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Abbas wins UN ‘birth certificate’ for Palestine

The UN General Assembly yesterday voted overwhelmingly to recognise Palestine as a non-member state, handing a major triumph to president Mahmud Abbas in the face of fierce opposition from the US and Israel.

Abbas demanded the United Nations give a “birth certificate” to a Palestinian state and was rewarded with the backing of 138 countries.

Only nine members heeded Israeli warnings that the move could lead to more violence and voted against. Forty-one abstained.

The vote lifts the status of the Palestinian Authority from an observer entity to a “non-member observer state” with the same status as the Vatican.

Even though it is not a full member it can now join UN agencies and potentially join the International Criminal Court.

The Palestinian leadership says it wants to use the “historic” vote as a launchpad for talks with Israel, which have been frozen for more than two years.

Abbas, who embraced his foreign minister after the vote and was given repeat standing ovations, said the vote was “the last chance to save the two-state solution”.

In a 22-minute speech laced with references to Israel’s assault this month against rockets fired from Gaza, Abbas said Palestinians would accept “no less than the independence of the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital”.

He added: “We must repeat here once again our warning: the window of opportunity is narrowing and time is quickly running out. The rope of patience is shortening and hope is withering.”

Abbas said UN members had to “issue a birth certificate of the reality of the state of Palestine”.

US ambassador Susan Rice condemned the vote as “an obstacle to peace” because it would not lead to a return to direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

“Today’s grand pronouncements will soon fade and the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little has changed,” she told the assembly, in a grimly delivered statement.

“This resolution does not establish that Palestine is a state.”

The United States had blocked a Palestinian application for full membership of the United Nations that Abbas made in September of 2011.

“The UN resolution will not confer statehood on the Palestinian Authority,” Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor said.

He added that making Palestine a non-member observer state at the UN “will place further obstacles and preconditions to negotiations and peace.” He warned that it could lead to increased violence.

Abbas was warned earlier by UN leader Ban Ki-moon that the Middle East peace process is on “life support” and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also said the UN General Assembly vote would not create a Palestinian state.

Ban urged both sides to return to talks which currently look a distant prospect, diplomats said.

The Palestinian leader did not make any reference to the possibility of joining the International Criminal Court, a major worry for Israel.

But Abbas said the Palestinian Authority would consult with other countries about new steps after its diplomatic status is bolstered.

“We will act responsibly and positively in our next steps, and we will to work to strengthen cooperation with the countries and peoples of the world for the sake of a just peace,” he said.

Talks between the two were suspended in September 2010.

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