Palestine recognised as a state 'in principle' by European Parliament in symbolic vote

A resolution passed in support of a 'two-state solution' to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

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The Independent Online

The European Parliament has voted to recognise the state of Palestine "in principle", describing it as key to the advancement of peace talks in the region.

MEPs adopted a resolution which, though symbolic, does not quite follow in the footsteps of a number of nations within the bloc who have backed immediate recognition of Palestinian statehood.

The motion that was passed on Wednesday represented a compromise among the European Parliament's main parties. It read:

"[We] support in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two-state solution, and believes these should go hand in hand with the development of peace talks, which should be advanced."

Social Democrat, left-wing and Green members of the European Parliament had initially put forward motions for a symbolic vote on Wednesday to call on the EU's 28 members to recognise Palestine statehood now without conditions.

This follows Sweden's decision in October to recognise Palestine and non-binding votes since then by parliaments in Britain, France and Ireland in favour of their recognition that demonstrated growing European impatience with the stalled peace process.

But the centre-right European People's Party, the largest group in parliament, and the fourth largest group, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, said recognition should only form part of a negotiated agreement with Israel.

It came as the UN Security Council prepared to accept an Arab-backed draft resolution on ending Israel's occupation of lands captured in 1967.

The current draft, sponsored by Jordan on behalf of the Palestinians, sets November 2016 as a deadline for an Israeli withdrawal from war-won lands the Palestinians seek for a state.

But the Palestinian foreign minister Riad Malki said an actual vote was unlikely to take place today, suggesting talks to avoid a potential US veto may well be underway.

The US Secretary of State John Kerry said it was important to avoid anything that interferes or "might be perceived as interfering" with Israeli elections planned for March. He said instead that the focus should be on halting growing Israeli-Palestinian violence and creating conditions for an eventual resumption of negotiations.

And it was a busy day for developments in the region, as the Hamas militant group was struck off the European Union's list of terrorist organisations.

That move came after a motion from Hamas which was critical of Europe's procedures for updating the list - and is expected to be reversed once lawyers have had time to bolster their file on the group's activities.

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