Britain wants more assurances before backing Abbas at UN

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More European states joined France yesterday in backing a Palestinian bid for limited statehood, but Britain held back, ­saying it wanted an assurance that the Palestinians would not pursue Israel through the International Criminal Court.

Germany said it would not support the diplomatic upgrade for the Palestinians at the United Nations, joining Israel and the United States, which say the only genuine route to statehood is through a peace accord from direct talks with the Jewish state.

Granting Palestinians the title of “observer state”, short of full UN representation, could allow them access to the court and some other international bodies.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is leading the campaign and several European governments are eager to give him their support after an eight-day conflict this month between Israel and Islamists in the Gaza Strip, who are pledged to Israel’s destruction and oppose his efforts towards a negotiated peace.

Palestinians appear certain to earn approval in the 193-member UN General Assembly for the status upgrade today.

Britain – like France and the US a permanent member of the UN Security Council – said it would not oppose the move, but that it needed more assurances to give its full support.

“The first [assurance] is that the Palestinian Authority should indicate a clear commitment to return immediately to negotiations without preconditions,” foreign secretary William Hague told parliament.