Abbas to Europe: Palestinians Deserve Same Support as Arab Spring

Posted October 6th, 2011 at 11:30 am (UTC-5)
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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is urging European nations to support what he calls a “Palestinian Spring” by endorsing his bid to secure U.N. membership for an independent Palestine.

In a speech Thursday to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Mr. Abbas said Palestinians seek freedom from Israeli occupation and deserve the same support that European nations gave to “Arab Spring” pro-democracy movements earlier this year.

The Council of Europe promotes human rights in its 47 member states and is a separate body from the 27-nation European Union. The Strasbourg-based assembly voted Tuesday to grant “Partner for Democracy” status to the Palestinian National Council, enabling it to participate in assembly proceedings without voting rights.

The Council of Europe also has called on the six members of the assembly with U.N. Security Council seats to support the Palestinian campaign for U.N. membership. The six nations include Bosnia-Herzegovina, Britain, France, Germany, Portugal and Russia. It is not clear how they would vote on the Palestinian bid, which has been submitted to a Security Council committee.

Israel and the United States oppose the Palestinian campaign, saying the only path to statehood is through Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Washington has promised to veto the bid in the Security Council if necessary.

In his speech to Council of Europe delegates, Mr. Abbas repeated his demand that negotiations cannot begin until Israel stops all settlement building on West Bank and East Jerusalem land that Palestinians want for a state. Israel has rejected that demand, saying it wants to resume peace talks without preconditions.

Mr. Abbas is expected to continue his efforts to raise international support for the U.N. bid with visits to the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Colombia in the coming days.