Canada’s Harper pressuring PA to drop U.N. bid; Aussies will abstain, France will approve


(JTA) — Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper personally intervened to pressure the Palestinian Authority to drop its bid for upgraded status at the United Nations, while Australia will abstain and France will vote in favor during this week’s vote.

While in New York to accept an award and attend the opening of a new session of the United Nations at the end of September, Harper had "a short, brusque meeting with [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas," the Globe and Mail newspaper reported Monday.

"In a little room at the United Nations, Mr. Harper skipped most of the pleasantries in a 15-minute meeting, according to sources briefed on the session, and told Mr. Abbas he had come to deliver a message: ‘If you keep doing what you’re doing,’ he said — referring to the Palestinian bid for upgraded status — ‘there will be consequences,’ " the newspaper reported.

"It was just one part of the bare-knuckle approach Canada has taken toward the U.N. bid, though largely out of public view," according to the newspaper.

On Thursday, the P.A. is set to ask the U.N. General Assembly to approve Palestinian status as a non-member observer state. Abbas was rebuffed in an attempt last year to have the 15-member U.N. Security Council recognize a Palestinian state.

A source told the Globe that Canada has warned the PA’s envoys that their legation in Ottawa might be closed and the Palestinian envoy,  Said Hamad, sent home.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has told several people, including Palestinian representatives, that he would travel to New York personally to cast a vote against the U.N. bid, the Globe reported.

The more serious potential aspects of the "consequences" about which Harper warned have to do with money: Ottawa pledged $300 million in aid over five years to the PA starting in 2008, and that period is about to run out.

Meanwhile, Australia will abstain in the U.N. vote on the status of Palestine, despite the Prime Minister Julia Gillard reportedly being intent on siding with Israel and America in voting against the motion. Local media reports Tuesday suggested that Gillard was roiled by a backbench revolt inside the Labor Party, but Foreign Minister Bob Carr, who supported abstaining, denied the charges.

Expressing disappointment at the decision, Peter Wertheim, the executive director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said, "Rightly or wrongly, the decision to abstain will damage Australia’s international reputation for moral leadership on international issues, and thus our international standing.”

The opposition Liberal Party’s Julie Bishop argued that the vote on whether to upgrade Palestinian status at the U.N. is "an attempt by Palestinian leaders to enable them to bring action against Israel through the international courts."

But Gillard and Carr issued a joint statement Tuesday backing the decision to abstain.

"The Government’s position balances our long-standing support for the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and their own state with our concern that the only durable basis for resolution of this conflict is direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians," it said.

"Australia strongly supports a negotiated two-state solution that allows a secure Israel to live side-by-side with a secure and independent future Palestinian state."

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that France would vote in favor of Palestinian non-member status at the United Nations.

“On Thursday or Friday, France will  vote yes," Fabuis said Tuesday in an address before the National Assembly at Palais Bourbon, Paris.

He explained that “for many years, France has stated its commitment to recognizing the Palestinian state” and adding, “Our vote will be consistent and conclusive.”

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