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Palestinians relaunch bid to become UN member state

UN envoy Riyad Mansour has revived the Palestinian bid for full UN membership; for now the 'State of Palestine' has observer status (ANGELA WEISS)
UN envoy Riyad Mansour has revived the Palestinian bid for full UN membership; for now the 'State of Palestine' has observer status (ANGELA WEISS)

The Palestinians on Tuesday officially revived their bid for a full member state in the United Nations -- a process with an uncertain outcome but one they say is necessary in the face of Israel's offensive in Gaza.

The Palestinians, who have had observer status at the world body since 2012, have lobbied for years to gain full membership, which would amount to recognition of Palestinian statehood.

In a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, dated Tuesday and seen by AFP, UN envoy Riyad Mansour requested "upon instructions of the Palestinian leadership" that an application dating back to 2011 be reconsidered.

The letter has been transmitted to the Security Council, and the Palestinians have asked that it be reviewed this month, according to the documents seen by AFP.

Mansour has repeatedly said in recent months that given Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip, a response to the October 7 attack by Hamas, UN membership is a priority for the Palestinians.

"It was the international community that decided to create two states in Palestine since 1947," Mansour said in February.

"It is the duty of the international community along with the Palestinian people to complete that exercise by admitting the state of Palestine to membership."

Last month, he said the Palestinians would "start mobilizing the largest number of countries to support us" and expressed hope that the council would act in April, pointing to a council meeting set for April 18 on the situation in Gaza.

Malta, which holds the rotating Security Council presidency, said Mansour's letter was "received and circulated" to council members, adding that talks would be held "on a way forward."

The League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement sent a letter to Guterres on Tuesday, also seen by AFP, supporting the bid by the Palestinians.

"We wish to bring to your attention that, as of this date, 140 Member States have recognized the state of Palestine," said the joint letter, which included a list of those countries.

- US veto? -

The 2011 application, launched by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, never came before the Security Council for a vote, and the General Assembly voted to grant the Palestinians observer status in November 2012.

Any request to become a UN member state must first be recommended by the council, then endorsed by a two-thirds majority in the General Assembly.

Observers believe the Palestinian push for membership is unlikely to reach the assembly as the United States, Israel's closest ally, could use its Security Council veto power to derail the recommendation.

"I find it very hard to see the US swallowing this proposal." Richard Gowan, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, told AFP, noting that it took months for Washington to agree not to block a council resolution calling for a Gaza ceasefire.

"As far as Washington is concerned, forcing Palestinian statehood up the agenda is simply likely to make coaxing Israel into a ceasefire harder," Gowan said.

To win the council's approval, the Palestinians would have to secure nine votes from the 15 members and no veto from any of the five permanent members: Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States.

For now, Israel has clearly rejected a two-state solution, and its parliament voted overwhelmingly in February against any unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood.

Several European countries -- Britain, France and Spain -- have raised the possibility of considering recognition.

In February, French President Emmanuel Macron said such a move was no longer "taboo."

A new draft Security Council resolution written by France -- now in the early stages of negotiations -- raises the idea of "intent to welcome the State of Palestine as a full member of the United Nations," according to a text seen by AFP.

In November 1947, the UN General Assembly voted to divide the British Mandate for Palestine into two states -- one Jewish, one Arab.

But only Israel was established on May 14, 1948, sparking a war between the new nation and several Arab countries.

For Gowan, "the Palestinians know that they have a moment to push this issue now, which may fade away if there is a ceasefire and UN members focus on other issues."

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