EU foreign ministers to meet on PA statehood bid

Session expected to go long way toward determining how block will vote on PA's UN statehood recognition; European countries differ in positions.

By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL IN BERLIN,
September 2, 2011 01:23
3 minute read.
AUSTRIAN FM Spindelegger and Abbas

Spindelegger Abbad 311. (photo credit: Thaer Ganaim/Palestinian Press Office)

 
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The EU’s 27 foreign minister’s are scheduled to meet in Poland on Friday, in a session expected to go a long way toward determining how the bloc – whose votes have been courted heavily by both Israel and the Palestinians – will vote on the PA’s UN statehood recognition bid later this month.

The meeting comes two days after French President Nicolas Sarkozy told a conference of French ambassadors that it was very important for the EU to speak together on this matter.

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“I hope that the 27 countries of the European Union will speak with one voice and that together we will assume our responsibilities,” he said, urging a greater role for Europe in the Middle East diplomatic process.

The chance of this happening, however, seemed slim, since some countries – such as Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland, have indicated they will vote against the proposal. A number of other countries, such as Spain, Ireland, Belgium and Luxembourg, are expected to vote for the resolution.

The EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told Israeli officials during her visit to Israel this week that she was trying to convince the PA to not take the measure to the UN.

The position of both France and Britain, meanwhile, has been noncommittal, with French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé having said earlier in the summer that his country’s vote would depend on the resolution’s language.



Austria, which earlier this week said that it would stay away from the so-called Durban III commemoration event in New York on September 22, remains noncommittal about the PA recognition bid, according to an Israeli Foreign Ministry source.

Austria has “refrained from stating a position” and “will not reveal” its stance at this time, the official said, adding that Vienna was “waiting to see what the big and important [EU] members are willing to say.”

“Austria does not intend to participate in Durban III because we have doubts on the political tone of this conference,” Alexander Schallenberg, a spokesman for the Austrian Foreign Ministry, told The Jerusalem Post.

When asked about the recognition of a Palestinian state, he referred to a meeting between Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in July.

Spindelegger said in a statement then, “We would prefer a negotiated two-state solution, because a negotiated solution is the best guarantee for a stable and peaceful environment.

Regarding the question of the recognition of a Palestinian state, we will decide as late as possible. At this time, it is still unclear what concrete agenda the UN General Assembly has to address a Palestinian state.”

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Raimund Fastenbauer, the general secretary of Austria’s Jewish community, told the Post on Wednesday that the community has told its country’s Foreign Ministry it opposes recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN.

“With the UN it is a clear violation of the Oslo Accords, and a one-sided step endangers the peace process” between Israelis and Palestinians, Fastenbauer said.

Meanwhile, Austria received a chorus of praise from Jewish NGOs for its decision to boycott Durban III.

“Austria has joined the US, Israel, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Australia as countries that have chosen to reject this anti-Semitic process that uses the cloak of human rights to give itself legitimacy,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Los Angeles-based Wiesenthal Center.

“Austria’s decision is particularly significant because it had participated in the first two UN conferences on racism, in Durban in 2001, and Geneva in 2009,” American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris said. “Our earnest hope is that other democratic nations will reach a similar conclusion as Austria did, thereby further denying this month’s gathering the legitimacy it seeks but most assuredly does not deserve.”

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