France's upper house urges recognition of Palestine
PARIS - Agence France-Presse
A general view of France's Senate prior to a vote on the recognition of a Palestinian state, Paris, France, Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. AFP PhotoFrance's upper house of parliament on Dec. 11 urged the government to recognize Palestine as a state, following a similar and highly symbolic vote in the lower house.
The Senate resolution, calling for French recognition of Palestine and an "immediate restarting" of peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis, passed narrowly, with 153 votes in favour and 146 against.
The vote came as European countries seek alternative ways to restart the stalled Middle East process and followed an unopposed motion in the Irish parliament to recognize Palestine -- the fourth assembly in Europe to do so.
Lawmakers in Britain and Spain have already passed similar motions and Sweden has gone even further, officially recognizing Palestine as a state, in a move that prompted Israel to recall its ambassador.
Earlier this month, French MPs voted 339 to 151 in favour of a motion urging the government to recognise the state of Palestine as a way of achieving a "definitive resolution of the conflict."
The vote drew a swift and angry response from Israel, which said it would send the "wrong message" to the region and would be counterproductive to the drive towards peace.
Neither vote is binding on French government policy toward Palestine and the Middle East.
However, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said Paris would recognise Palestine if diplomatic efforts failed again and urged a resolution to the Middle East conflict within two years.
Ireland: 'Early recognition' of Palestine possible
DUBLIN - The Associated Press
Ireland is considering early recognition of Palestinian statehood as a possible tactic for kick-starting Middle East peace talks, the foreign minister declared Wednesday as he offered conditional support for an idea bitterly opposed by Israel.
Charlie Flanagan spoke as Ireland became the latest European Union member to approve a non-binding parliamentary motion seeking recognition of Palestinian statehood. Lawmakers in Britain, France and Spain already have passed similar motions calling on their governments to follow Sweden, which on Oct. 30 ignited debate by becoming the first western EU member to recognize Palestinian statehood officially.
Flanagan said Ireland's government was considering the move. He credited Sweden with inspiring the entire 28-nation EU to open talks Nov. 26 in Brussels seeking a possible alliance-wide endorsement of Palestinian statehood. But he said Ireland still hoped to make the move as part of a wider Israeli-Palestinian accord, not before it or unilaterally in advance of achieving an EU consensus.
"Achieving and recognizing a Palestinian state has always been the objective of the Irish government. Everything we do in the Middle East is directed towards that aim," Flanagan told a virtually empty parliamentary chamber, with barely a dozen lawmakers present in the 166-seat chamber. Most represented the opposition Sinn Fein, an Irish nationalist party with strong Palestinian links. The Palestinian ambassador to Ireland, Ahmad Abdelrazek, watched the debate from the visitors' gallery above.
"While successive governments have always seen recognition coming as part of an agreed peace, I've made it clear that I've absolutely no difficulty in principle with the idea of early recognition, if I believe it can contribute to achieving a settlement of the conflict. The present stalemate is not acceptable to me," Flanagan said.
But he stopped short of promising that the government would fulfill the parliamentary motion's call to recognize Palestine ahead of any EU consensus. "First our priority goal is to work to begin or, indeed, resume a process of real negotiations between the parties," he said. "Despite previous failures and consequent deep frustration, our own experience tells us that this is the only way that conflict can be resolved, and a fully functioning Palestinian state on all of its territory established."