“A mandate for direct peace talks”

Late on 29 November, the UN General Assembly accepted the Palestinian representation’s bid to have its status in the body raised to that of a Non Member Observer State. Germany abstained from the vote. Foreign Minister Westerwelle afterwards described the outcome as a mandate for Israel and the Palestinians to engage in direct peace talks, urging that these be launched as soon as possible.

A negotiated two state solution

What mattered in the current situation, he said, was that everything possible be done “to launch a joint effort to find a fair and just two state solution”. Minister Westerwelle had voiced his conviction before the vote took place that real statehood for the Palestinian territories could only be achieved through Israeli Palestinian negotiations. That, he said, would require the political will of both sides and the international community’s active commitment. He highlighted Germany’s support:

Germany remains fully committed to a two state solution and lasting peace in the Middle East. We firmly stand by our responsibility for Israel and our engagement for a viable Palestinian state as a result of negotiations.

At United Nations headquarters in New York

At United Nations headquarters in New York
© picture alliance / Sergi Reboredo

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At United Nations headquarters in New York

At United Nations headquarters in New York

At United Nations headquarters in New York

Of the member states in the General Assembly, 138 voted to accept the application, while Germany and 40 others abstained. Nine voted against. This means that the Palestinian territories will hereafter be treated as an observer state without UN membership, like the Holy See. The Palestinians have hitherto only been present as an observer entity. Minister Westerwelle welcomed the resolution’s explicit recognition of Israel’s right to exist. At the same time, however, he expressed regret that the European Union had not arrived at a common position.

Ambassador Peter Wittig’s explanation of Germany’s vote in the UN General Assembly, 29 November 2012

UN and EU also support negotiations

UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon and Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, both underlined the urgent need for direct negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian sides. The goal, they reiterated, was a two state solution. Israel and an independent, sovereign, viable and contiguous Palestinian state should exist side by side within agreed borders, enjoying peace and security, they said.

“We understand both sides’ concerns”

Prior to the vote, Foreign Minister Westerwelle explained that Germany’s abstention reflected the fact that both sides – the Palestinians and Israel – had legitimate concerns. He made the following statement:

This was not a decision we took lightly. It is a carefully considered, well balanced decision. On the one hand, we understand the Palestinians’ legitimate desire for their own state. On the other, we recognize our particular responsibility with respect to Israel and peaceful, stable development in the region. (…) Germany, too, supports the creation of a Palestinian state. That is why we are providing extensive support for the Palestinian Authority’s economic development and state building.

Germany’s support for the Palestinian Authority and state building

Last updated 30.11.2012

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