The U.N. Security Council on Monday took up the issue of the Palestinian bid for full U.N. membership. The meeting was mostly procedural and that the council is expected to meet again on the subject later this week.
The 15-member Security Council met behind closed doors for less than one hour. Afterward, Lebanese Ambassador Nawaf Salam, who holds the rotating presidency this month, spoke to the press.
“I would like to inform you that the Security Council met this afternoon in consultations and decided to convene in a formal meeting Wednesday at 9:30 [in the morning] to consider the application of the state of Palestine for membership, to defer, that is, to the standing committee on admissions," said Salam.
Ambassador Salam explained that there is a standing Security Council committee on new U.N. members, but that the question of referring the matter to it requires a formal meeting.
The committee will then review the application and decide whether the region referred to as Palestine meets the criteria for statehood, including having a defined territory and a recognized government. Under the U.N. Charter, a new member must also be “peace-loving.” The committee will report its conclusions to the council, and the council, in a resolution, will decide whether to make a recommendation to the General Assembly.
But for the council to recommend that Palestine be accepted for U.N. membership, nine positive votes and no vetoes from the permanent five members of the council are required. The United States has said it will use its veto if necessary, arguing that direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians is the only way to lasting Mideast peace and a two-state solution.
Palestinian U.N. envoy Riyad Mansour told reporters that several Security Council members are under pressure from the United States not to support their application. But he said he is optimistic that the Palestinians will obtain the necessary votes.
“We trust that we have many friends in the council," said Mansour. "And the relationship between us and our friends is a solid relationship and they admire the cause of Palestine and they are supportive of justice for the Palestinian people. And we hope that when this exercise is finished and done that the Security Council will stand tall and support the global consensus on the issue of independence of the other state - the state of Palestine - so that the two-state solution can become a reality and Palestine can become a member.”
Mansour added that Palestine has the support of 131 of the 193 member states in the General Assembly, exceeding what is needed for a two-thirds majority for admission as a full U.N. member.
On Friday, the Middle East Quartet issued a statement calling on the Palestinians and Israel to resume talks within a month and laying out a timeline for resolving outstanding issues by the end of next year.
Ambassador Mansour said the Palestinian leadership will meet on Wednesday to discuss the Quartet's statement. Israel’s foreign minister was quoted in news reports as saying he had reservations about the Quartet announcement, but that a renewal of talks without preconditions is “noteworthy.”
Talks between the two sides broke down last September, after Israel refused to extend a moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank. The Palestinians have demanded that Israel stop building settlements as a precondition to talks.