The U.N. Security Council will meet Wednesday to start the process of formally considering the Palestinian request for membership in the world body, the council president said Monday.
Lebanese Ambassador Nawaf Salam, who holds this month’s rotating presidency, made a brief appearance before reporters Monday and issued a statement in English and Arabic. He said the council had met Monday afternoon and decided to take up a decision on referring the issue for further consideration in two days. That will consist of forming a committee to study the Palestinian submission.
The United States has said it would use its Security Council veto to block Palestinian membership should the measure receive the necessary nine of 15 votes. That would keep the membership bid from moving forward to the 193-member General Assembly for the needed two-thirds vote. A vote in the Security Council was not expected for weeks, at the least.
U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe confidential diplomacy, said Monday they were telling fellow council members that there’s no rush to act on the bid submitted Friday over U.S. and Israeli objections. The U.S. is also seeking cooperation from other members in persuading the Palestinians not to push for a quick vote.
The U.S. hopes that going slow may allow Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to resume without a confrontation at the world body.
Earlier Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Makati at the U.N. to make the U.S. argument. Lebanon, the only Arab member of the 15-member Council, is expected to support the Palestinian bid.
Senior U.S. officials said Clinton had made separate, similar calls to the foreign ministers of Colombia and China, both of which hold council seats.
The Palestinian envoy to the U.N. Riyad Mansour said he was grateful to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for quickly forwarding the request to the Security Council. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday submitted the application that Palestine become the United Nations’ 194th member.
“We hope it will lead to fast action in positively recognizing that Palestine be admitted,” Mansour said.
But he admitted that several countries would be coming “under tremendous pressure” not to recognize Palestine as a state and said the Palestinians are sending high-level delegations in the coming days to Bosnia, Gabon and Nigeria — all council members — to elicit support for their bid.
Mansour said that the Palestinian leadership will be meeting Wednesday on a subsequent statement by the Quartet of Mideast peacemakers — the U.S., European Union, Russia and U.N. — calling for a resumption of peace talks without preconditions within a month and a target for a final agreement by the end of 2012.
Israel and the United States oppose the move to grant U.N. membership to the Palestinians and consider it a step back from long-stalled peace talks, and the U.S. has said it will veto a resolution recommending membership.
Nonetheless, diplomats said the council is moving ahead — as it does with all applications it receives. The Palestinians have demanded that there be no politically motivated delays.
The council will hold a formal meeting Wednesday to transmit the bid to a committee on admission of new members which includes all 15 council nations, diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because consultations have been private.
A German diplomat speaking on background because the talks were private, said the council had at least reached consensus on the next steps to take, but noted the political focus would now be on the Quartet’s efforts.
The Palestinian president turned to the U.N. in frustration after nearly two decades of unsuccessful peace efforts that were derailed at various times by violence, indecision and intransigence. Abbas says he will return to the negotiating table only if Israel halts settlement construction and accepts the pre-1967 War borders as the basis for talks.
The Palestinians want the Security Council to recognize an independent Palestine in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip — areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. Some 500,000 Jewish settlers now live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.
The United States, Britain, France and other council members are likely to try to hold up consideration of the application while they press for a resumption of long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, diplomats said.
If the Palestinians fail to win U.N. membership, they can turn directly to the General Assembly, where there are no vetoes and a number of options including seeking to raise their status at the U.N. from a permanent observer to a nonmember observer state. That would give them the possibility of joining U.N. agencies and becoming parties to treaties including the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court.
Photo: Lebanese Ambassador to the United Nations Nawaf Salam speaks to reporters