No rush to join ICC, says Palestinian UN envoy

Filed on November 29, 2012

NEW YORK The Palestinians will not rush to sign up to the International Criminal Court if they win a UN status upgrade on Thursday, but warned that seeking action against Israel in the court would remain an option, said the Palestinian UN observer.

The Palestinians appear certain to earn approval in the 193-member UN General Assembly for a status upgrade to “observer state” — similar to the Vatican’s rank — from observer “entity.” The move would implicitly recognise Palestinian statehood.

The change would allow the Palestinian territories to access bodies like the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which prosecutes people for genocide, war crimes and other major human rights violations, where it could complain about Israel.

“I don’t believe that we are going to be rushing the second day to join everything related to the United Nations, including the ICC,” Palestinian UN observer, Riyad Mansour, told a news conference at the United Nations on Tuesday.

But if Israel continued to violate international law, particularly by building settlements in the West Bank — territory Israel captured in a 1967 war — then Mansour said the Palestinians would consult with friends, including Europe, on “what should we do next to bring Israel into compliance?”

“We’re not in the business of trying to prolong this conflict and settle scores,” Mansour said. “But we are not fools nor dummies. If they don’t move in that direction ... then all of us should be considering all other possible options in order to bring them into compliance.”

Israel and the United States oppose the UN move by the Palestinians and have called on President Mahmoud Abbas to return to peace talks that collapsed in 2010 over the Israeli settlement construction. Abbas says he is ready for an unconditional resumption of talks after the U.N. upgrade.

In April, the ICC rejected a Palestinian request to examine alleged crimes in Gaza and the West Bank because the Palestinian territories were not a full U.N. member.

But the Palestinian move on Tuesday to downplay their ICC aspirations appeared to be a bid to build European support ahead of the U.N. status vote.

After Israeli, British and US diplomats unsuccessfully tried to persuade the Palestinians to drop their bid for a UN status upgrade, they then focused on trying to get the Palestinians to guarantee that they would forego complaining about Israel to the ICC. The Palestinians refused. Israel is concerned the Palestinians could ask the ICC - which is not an official UN body - to prosecute its leaders.

Britain, which recently pushed European countries to abstain on the UN vote, has asked the Palestinians to forego joining the ICC in return for its vote. Britain’s UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said London had not yet decided how to vote.

“We have made consistently clear that it is wrong for the Palestinians to bring this resolution to a vote at this time and that it isn’t likely to be a helpful contribution to the peace process in the Middle East,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

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