French parliament votes to recognise Palestinian state

French lawmakers voted on Tuesday in favour of recognising the Palestinian territories as a state, following similar moves in Britain and Spain as European countries try to restart the stalled Middle East peace process.

AFP file picture

The non-binding, but highly symbolic National Assembly vote urges the government to recognise a Palestinian state, reflecting growing European impatience with the stalled Middle East peace process.

MPs voted 339 to 151 in favour of the motion calling upon the French government to recognise a Palestinian state "as an instrument to gain a definitive resolution of the conflict".

Reporting from the National Assembly shortly after the vote, FRANCE 24’s Armen Georgian noted that while the motion was expected to pass, the number of votes in favour revealed “a very clear majority” of French lawmakers supported the move by the ruling Socialist Party.

The vote came despite the opposition from the centre-right UMP party, whose newly-elected leader, former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, urged his party members to vote against the motion.

France is home to Europe’s largest Jewish and Muslim communities and right-wing lawmakers have criticised the ruling Socialist Party of trying to woo Muslim voters.

While most developing countries recognise the Palestinian territories as a state, most Western European countries do not, supporting the Israeli and US position that an independent Palestinian state should emerge from negotiations with Israel.

Tuesday’s vote reflects a growing movement among European states to seek alternative ways to jumpstart the moribund Middle East peace process.

The French vote came hot on the heels of a near unanimous vote in favour of recognising Palestine in the British and Spanish parliaments.

Sweden's government went even further, officially recognising the Palestinian territories as a state in a controversial move that prompted Israel to recall its ambassador.

Israel slams vote, Palestinians express ‘gratitude’

Reactions to Tuesday’s vote were swift from both sides, with the Israeli embassy denouncing the move as harmful to prospects of peace in the region.

Jordan backs resolution

Jordan’s United Nations envoy said on Tuesday she will try to get the UN Security Council to agree on a resolution that would press for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before Christmas.

Ambassador Dina Kawar, the Arab representative on the 15-member council, said Tuesday that there are Palestinian and French drafts and there may be others.

Kawar said Jordan will be working to get a unified text acceptable to all council members.

"Israel believes that the vote in the National Assembly... will reduce the possibility of achieving a deal between Israel and the Palestinians," according to an Israeli statement released shortly after the vote. "Decisions of this nature harden the Palestinian position and send the wrong message to the people and the leaders of the region," it added.

The Palestinian leadership, on the other hand, welcomed the vote and expressed its “gratitude” to French lawmakers.

"We call on the French government to translate its parliament's vote into action," Hanan Ashrawi, a senior leader in the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said in a statement.

"We wish to express our gratitude to the members of the French parliament for adopting a resolution on the side of justice and human dignity," she said. "For peace to prevail, support for the two-state solution must be more than lip service.”

Pressure on France to play more active role

The vote has raised domestic pressure on France, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to take a more active role in the Middle East peace process. A recent poll showed more than 60 percent of French people supported a Palestinian state.

The text, proposed by the ruling Socialists and backed by left-wing parties and some conservatives, asked the government to "use the recognition of a Palestinian state with the aim of resolving the conflict definitively".

During a debate on the issue last week, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius stressed that Paris would recognise the Palestinen territories as a state if diplomatic efforts failed again and urged a resolution to the Middle East conflict within two years.

Neither Fabius nor Prime Minister Manuel Valls attended the vote in parliament. The government has said it will not be bound by the result.

"We don't want a symbolic recognition that will only lead to a virtual state," Europe Minister Harlem Desir told lawmakers in reaction to the vote. "We want a Palestinian state that is real so we want to give a chance to negotiations."

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

Click here to watch FRANCE 24’s video on how the vote was anticipated in Ramallah.

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