Foreign Secretary William Hague has said that the likelihood of a return to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations would have been greater if the Palestinian Authority had given the reassurances Britain asked for ahead of Thursday UN General assembly vote.
In a statement released following the vote, which saw the Palestinians upgraded to non-member observer status despite a British abstention, Mr Hague said: “We continue to believe that the prospects for a swift return to negotiations on a two state solution - the only way to create a Palestinian state on the ground - would be greater today if President Abbas had been able to give the assurances we suggested, and without which we were unable to vote in favour of the resolution.”
He explained what Britain had asked for: “We called on President Abbas to set out a willingness to return to negotiations without preconditions, and to signal that the Palestinians would not immediately seek action in the International Criminal Court.”
The focus of his statement was the future of the peace process. “We will redouble our efforts to restart the peace process, and will continue our strong support for President Abbas, the Palestinian Authority, and a two state solution,” he said.
The UK ambassador to the UN, Sir Mark Lyall Grant, also released a statement saying that the PA taking cases to the ICC “could undermine the chances of those peace negotiations being successful”.
Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander was highly critical of the UK’s abstention in the vote. He said: "The British Government's decision to abstain is worse than a blunder. It is a historic misjudgment which will be interpreted as a sign not of influence but of irrelevance.”
The vote passed in the General Assembly on Thursday, with 138 states voting for the motion, nine voting against, and 41 abstentions.