Foreign Minister Murray McCully says New Zealand will support Palestine’s bid to gain recognition as a state by the United Nations General Assembly.
The vote on whether to upgrade Palestine’s status from “observer” to “nonmember observer state” takes place this morning (NZ time) and Palestine is expected to succeed.
Mr McCully says New Zealand’s vote reflects a long-standing policy of the New Zealand Government.
“New Zealand is a long-standing supporter of the two-state solution,” he says.
“We believe that Israel and a Palestinian state should exist side by side, each respecting the other’s right to peace.”
But he acknowledges a UN resolution won’t end the dispute, calling it “a poor substitute for direct negotiations between the two parties.”
“We remain frustrated that two leaders who live half an hour up the road from each other cannot meet to resolve these matters directly.”
New Zealand’s vote will put it at odds with the United States, Israel, Germany, Canady, the Netherlands and Australia, who are all either opposing or abstaining.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard had planned to vote against the resolution, but was overruled by her Cabinet colleagues and will abstain.
France, Italy, Spain, Norway, Denmark and Switzerland are all supporting Palestine.
Mr McCully says it’s not unusual for New Zealand to disagree with Australia and the US on Middle East issues.
“We’ve got an independent foreign policy, we make our own evaluation… I think New Zealand’s in the right place, given the traditional approach we’ve brought to this issue.”
Mr McCully dismissed suggestions New Zealand’s stance would become a sore point with the US.
“We’re grown-up countries. We talk to each other about these things, we agree to disagree on some things. It’s a disagreement over degrees rather than substance.”
The Green Party has welcomed the Government’s decision, saying it will increase the chances of Israel and Palestine reaching a “credible and enduring political settlement”.
“New Zealand needs to make sure that Palestine and its people enjoy the rule of international law and secure their legitimate political rights,” says Green Party global affairs spokesman, Dr Kennedy Graham.
Mr McCully says New Zealand will also make clear to the UN that it supports Israel’s right to safety and security and condemns the recent actions of Hamas extremists in Gaza.
He says New Zealand supports the leadership of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Watch a live stream of the General Assembly plenary meeting on Palestine below.