UN Upgrades PLO Status Netanyahu Minimizes Significance of Victory

JERUSALEM (Reuters)–Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday played down the importance of a UN vote to upgrade the PLO’s status–saying Palestinians had achieved only "minor corrections" to their present standing.

Netanyahu told reporters that the United States and European Union leaders had helped minimize the impact of the Palestinian move–which he said was a clear violation of Israeli-Palestinian peace deals.

"I am satisfied that the Palestinian effort to upgrade their standing at the UN to virtually the status of a state did not succeed," Netanyahu told reporters when asked about the vote.

"What they achieved are minor corrections to their current status,” he said at a joint news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem.

Brushing aside US and Israeli objections–the General Assembly voted 124 to four with 10 abstentions to upgrade the status of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Though it now has rights closer to those of a member state–including the right to co-sponsor resolutions on Palestinian and Middle East issues–the delegation will not be able to submit candidates for various UN posts and offices.

"I am grateful for the assistance of the United States and the European leaders that I have talked to–who I think acted in this case responsibly and swiftly,” Netanyahu said.

He said the Palestinians’ effort to upgrade their UN standing was an attempt to predetermine their international status and a "clear violation" of interim peace deals with Israel.

"It should be discouraged for the sake of allowing our negotiations to succeed," Netanyahu said.

Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat described the vote as a "major development" and said Palestinians would soon achieve full membership with a state of their own. He said Washington’s opposition to the upgrade was "unacceptable and inexcusable."

Israel and the PLO signed an interim peace deal in 1993 that left Palestinian statehood and other sensitive issues to be settled in "final status" talks which were formally launched in 1996 but never got off the ground.

The interim deal set May 1999 as the date for completion of a final peace accord.

Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking has been deadlocked for the last 16 months over Israeli settlement construction–Palestinian suicide bombings and the scope of Israeli West Bank withdrawals.

Israel’s UN ambassador–Dore Gold–called the UN vote a "hollow victory" for the PLO that did not bestow a new status on the organization.

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