After UN vote, widespread calls for peace talks

Washington labels Palestine upgrade "unfortunate" as Vatican hails recognition of state, calls for special status on Jerusalem.

United Nations General Assembly 370 (R) (photo credit: Chip East / Reuters)
United Nations General Assembly 370 (R)
(photo credit: Chip East / Reuters)
Not every diplomat and official who spoke after the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade the Palestinians' statehood status Thursday night was thrilled with the result, but nearly all of them made emphatic calls for a return to bilateral peace talks.
The United States, however, was alone in condemning the move, calling it "unfortunate" and counter-productive. But both US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also called on both Israelis and Palestinians to return to negotiations, calling them the only way to resolve the conflict.
"We have been clear that only through direct negotiations between the parties can the Palestinians and Israelis achieve the peace they both deserve: two states for two people with a sovereign, viable independent Palestine living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish and democratic Israel," Clinton said in a speech in Washington on foreign policy trends.
Rice, speaking at the UN,
said the move at the UN does not "create a state where non indeed exists or change the reality on the ground."
She also called for renewed negotiations, saying that ultimately, "it is the Palestinians and the Israelis who must talk to each other, listen to each other and find a way to live side by side in the land they share."
Meanwhile, the Vatican hailed the United Nations's implicit recognition of a Palestinian state on Thursday and called for an internationally guaranteed special status for Jerusalem.
The 193-nation UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution to upgrade the Palestinian Authority's observer status at the United Nations from "entity" to "non-member state," the same status as the Vatican.
"The Holy See welcomes with favor the decision of the General Assembly by which Palestine has become a Non-member Observer State of the United Nations," a statement said.
But it also said it was a "propitious occasion" to recall a "common position" on Jerusalem expressed by the Vatican and the Palestine Liberation Organization when the two sides signed a basic agreement on their bilateral relations in 2000.
Thursday's statement called for "an internationally guaranteed special statute" for Jerusalem, aimed at "safeguarding the freedom of religion and of conscience, the identity and sacred character of Jerusalem as a Holy City, (and) respect for, and freedom of, access to its holy places."
The United Kingdom's ambassador to the UN, explaining his country's abstention in the vote, said it had been unable to to secure certain assurances from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whom he described as "a courageous man of peace." Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant reaffirmed that the only way to achieve a two-state solution is through negotiations.
He added that the UK looks to the United States to take the lead in coming months in order to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon responded to the vote by affirming that Palestinians have a right to their own independent state.
But, the UN chief said there is no alternative to negotiations and urged Israel and the Palestinians to act responsibly, renew their commitment and intensify their efforts for a negotiated, just and lasting peace.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said he hoped all sides would use the vote to push for new breakthroughs in the peace process.
"I hope there will be no punitive measures," Fayyad told Reuters in Washington, where he was attending a conference.
"I hope that some reason will prevail and the opportunity will be taken to take advantage of what happened today in favor of getting a political process moving," he said.
At least 17 European nations voted in favor of the Palestinian resolution, including Austria, France, Italy, Norway and Spain. Abbas had focused his lobbying efforts on Europe, which supplies much of the aid the Palestinian Authority relies on. Britain, Germany and others chose to abstain.
The Czech Republic was unique in Europe, joining the United States, Israel, Canada, Panama and tiny Pacific Island states likes Nauru, Palau and Micronesia in voting against the move.