Page last updated at 16:13 GMT, Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Minister explains UK strategy for Palestinian UN vote

The government will not support the Palestinian bid for upgraded diplomatic status unless certain assurances are met, a Foreign Office minister has said.

During question time on 28 November 2012, Lord Wallace of Saltaire told the Lords the government had been in "active" discussions with Palestinian authorities and other governments over the exact text of the resolution.

He added: "If we gain from the Palestinians the assurances we are looking for we will be able to vote in favour of the resolution."

The Palestinians are asking the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to upgrade their status from permanent observer to a "non-member observer state".

France has confirmed it will support the bid, but Israel and the US oppose the move, due to be voted on later this week.

Earlier in the Commons, Foreign Secretary William Hague said that to win the UK's vote the Palestinian Authority must agree to take part in unconditional peace talks with Israel and not to apply to join the International Criminal Court.

The subject was raised in the Lords by Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Tonge, who said the Palestinians had felt "totally betrayed by successive British governments".

She asked whether "in making its support for the bid conditional on Palestine not pursuing Israel through the international criminal courts" the UK government was "admitting Israel has committed war crimes in Gaza and the West Bank and is seeking impunity for that country".

Lord Wallace said the recent Gaza conflict "reinforced" the urgency to achieve a two-state solution to secure the "long-term welfare and security of both sides".

He warned that "we may find ourselves looking at some very unpalatable alternatives" if a solution is not reached within one to two years.

Labour peer Lord Turnberg said the Palestinian bid was "more of a distraction than a help", arguing that the main objective should be on bringing the two sides to the negotiating table.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire said the position of the Palestinian Authority would become "impossible" if "illegal" Israeli settlements continued.

"So while we have done our best as a government to dissuade the Palestinian Authority from taking this resolution to the UNGA at this point we do understand the reasons why it feels it necessary to do so," he added.

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