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Canada abstains from UN assembly vote backing Palestinian bid for membership

The UN General Assembly has voted by a wide margin to grant new 'rights and privileges' to Palestinian representatives and called on the Security Council to favourably reconsider their request to have a Palestinian state become the 194th member of the United Nations.

Trudeau says country is committed to two-state solution

Trudeau explains why Canada abstained from a UN vote backing Palestinian bid for membership

11 hours ago

Duration 2:01

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada's longstanding position that a Palestinian state could only be recognized at the end of a process leading to a two-state solution has changed. "We now recognize that it may happen sooner than at the end of the process," he said.

The UN General Assembly has voted by a wide margin to grant new "rights and privileges" to Palestinian representatives and called on the Security Council to favourably reconsider their request to have a Palestinian state become the 194th member of the United Nations.

Canada was one of 25 nations to abstain from the vote on Friday. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later said the country refrained from voting because of its commitment to reaching a two-state solution — a Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank and in Gaza alongside Israel.

"Over the past while, we've seen us move further away from that two-state solution. The Israeli government, under Prime Minister Netanyahu, has unacceptably closed the door on any path towards a two-state solution, and we disagree with that fundamentally," Trudeau said after a news conference on another matter in West Kelowna, B.C.

"At the same time, Hamas continues to govern as a terrorist organization in Gaza, [and] continues to put civilian lives in danger, continues to refuse to recognize the state of Israel in ways that are also unacceptable.

"So, Canada has decided to change our position from 'no' at the UN to abstaining."

Bob Rae, Canada's ambassador to the UN, said the country will recognize the Palestinian state at the time most conducive to lasting peace, adding that this isn't necessarily after a final peace accord with Israel.

"We believe there must be continued progress toward Palestinian self-determination and we will not, and cannot, afford to give up," Rae said during his remarks at the vote in New York in Friday.

"It is clear that we must urgently rebuild a credible path to achieving a two-state solution — one that gives hope to both pales and Israelis, that they may live side by side in peace, security and dignity. That process cannot indefinitely delay the creation of a Palestinian state," he continued.

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For decades, world leaders have sold an Israeli-Palestinian two-state solution as the best hope for peace in the region, but is it even possible? CBC’s Ellen Mauro breaks down the major challenges standing in the way.

The United States vetoed a widely backed council resolution on April 18 that would have paved the way for full UN membership for the Palestinian state, a goal the Palestinians have long sought and that Israel has worked to prevent.

The renewed push for full Palestinian membership in the UN comes as the war in Gaza has put the more than 75-year-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict centre stage. At numerous council and assembly meetings, the humanitarian crisis facing the Palestinians in Gaza and the killing of more than 34,900 people in the territory, according to Gaza health officials, have generated outrage from many member states.

A man with white hair wears a blue suit as he sits and speaks into a microphone.

The original draft of the assembly resolution was changed significantly to address concerns not only by the U.S. but also by Russia and China, according to three Western diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because negotiations were private.

The first draft would have conferred on the Palestinian state "the rights and privileges necessary to ensure its full and effective participation" in the assembly's sessions and UN conferences "on equal footing with member states." It also made no reference to whether the state could vote in the General Assembly.

According to the diplomats, Russia and China, which are strong supporters of the Palestinian state's UN membership, were concerned that granting the list of rights and privileges detailed in an annex to the resolution could set a precedent for other would-be UN members — with Russia concerned about Kosovo and China about Taiwan.

WATCH | U.S. vetoed the Palestinian request for full membership into the UN last month:

U.S. vetoes Palestinian request for full UN membership

22 days ago

Duration 1:00

The United States has used its position as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council to veto a Palestinian request for full membership into the United Nations. The final tally of the vote was 12 in favour, two abstentions and one against.

The final draft drops the language that would put a Palestinian state "on equal footing with member states." And to address Chinese and Russian concerns, it would decide "on an exceptional basis and without setting a precedent" to adopt the rights and privileges in the annex.

The draft also adds a provision in the annex on the issue of voting, stating categorically, "The state of Palestine, in its capacity as an observer state, does not have the right to vote in the General Assembly or to put forward its candidature to United Nations organs."

The final list of rights and privileges in the draft annex includes giving the Palestinian state the right to speak on all issues — not just those related to the Palestinians and Middle East — the right to propose agenda items and reply in debates, and the right to be elected as officers in the assembly's main committees. It would give the Palestinians the right to participate in UN and international conferences convened by the United Nations — but it drops their "right to vote," which was in the original draft.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas first delivered the Palestinian Authority's application for UN membership in 2011. It failed because the Palestinians didn't get the required minimum support of nine of the Security Council's 15 members.

They went to the General Assembly and succeeded by more than a two-thirds majority in having their status raised from a UN observer to a non-member observer state. That opened the door for the Palestinian territories to join the UN and other international organizations, including the International Criminal Court.

In the Security Council vote on April 18, the Palestinians got much more support for full UN membership. The vote was 12 in favour, with the United Kingdom and Switzerland abstaining. The United States voted no, vetoing the resolution.

With files from CBC News

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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