France has confirmed its intentions to vote for Palestinian non-member status at the United Nations later this week.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France had long backed Palestinian ambitions for statehood and would vote yes “out of a concern for coherency”.
The Palestinians are asking the UN General Assembly to upgrade their status from permanent observer to a “non-member observer state”.
The vote is due to take place later this week.
“This Thursday or Friday, when the question is asked, France will vote yes,” Laurent Fabius told the lower house of parliament.
But he cautioned: “It’s only with negotiations between the two sides that we demand immediately, without any preconditions, that a Palestinian state can become a reality.”
Backing international recognition of a Palestinian state was a campaign pledge made by Francois Hollande before he became France’s president earlier this year.
France – a permanent member of the UN Security Council – is the first major European country to come out in favor of the move.
Germany is expected to vote against, while the UK’s ambassador to the UN, Mark Lyall Grant, said on Tuesday that London remained undecided.
An upgrade in status would allow the Palestinians to participate in General Assembly debates and improve their chances of joining UN agencies and the International Criminal Court (ICC), although the process would be neither automatic nor guaranteed.
If they are allowed to sign the ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, the Palestinians hope to take legal action in the court to challenge Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
The bid follows an attempt in 2011 by Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), to join the UN as a full member state, which failed because of a lack of support in the Security Council.
Observers say the latest Palestinian application is likely win approval in the 193-member UN General Assembly, as it needs to only a simple majority to pass. According to the PLO, more than 130 countries already grant the Palestinians the rank of a sovereign state.
But Israel and the United States are concerned that the move is an attempt by the Palestinian Authority to secure statehood through the United Nations rather than through negotiation, as set out in the 1993 Oslo peace accords.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Ben Dor said earlier this month that if the Palestinians, with UN non-member observer status, asked the ICC to resolve disputes with Israel, then Israel would “take unilateral steps to protect its interests”. He did not elaborate on what those measures would be.
President Mahmoud Abbas has said he does not “want any confrontations with the United States or Israel”, adding: “If we can start a dialogue or negotiations the day after the [UN] vote, we will.”