Security Council to decide on Palestinian accession to the UN

The United Nations (UN) Security Council announced that it will decide on Palestine's application for full membership of the UN by the end of April.

"The Council has decided that this negotiation will take place in April," said Ambassador Vanessa Frazier of Malta, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council.

In September 2011, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas initiated a procedure requesting "the accession of the State of Palestine to the United Nations".

The process was never completed and the Palestinians finally obtained "non-member observer state" status in November 2012.

Last week, the Palestinians resumed their application for membership in a letter to the Security Council, which had initiated the review process and will reconvene on the issue later today.

"This is a historic moment," said Palestinian Ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour.

Success would require a favourable Security Council recommendation (at least 9 votes in favour without a veto by a permanent member), followed by a two-thirds majority vote in the General Assembly.

Observers are sceptical that the initiative will pass the Council stage because of the position of the United States, which opposed the initiative in 2011.

US Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood said on Monday that "our position has not changed" and reiterated that recognition of a Palestinian state should be part of an agreement with Israel, not at the UN.

Last week, he emphasised that the US was "constrained by law" and that UN funding should be "cut off" if "the Security Council approves the accession of a Palestinian state outside a bilateral agreement".

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan on Monday strongly condemned the Palestinian request. "The Security Council is currently discussing the recognition of a 'Palestinian' state," Erdan said from the floor of the General Assembly.

In the event of a US veto, it would not be the first time that an application to join the UN has been blocked in the Security Council.

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union repeatedly blocked the accession of countries allied to each other. The last veto was in 1976, when the Americans blocked Vietnam's entry.