Reykjavik, Nov 30: Iceland has become the first Western European country to recognize Palestine as an independent state, its government said Tuesday.
Parliament said in a statement on its website that it had passed the motion with 38 of 63 votes in favor of a resolution to recognize Palestine "as an independent and sovereign state" based on borders predating the Six Day War of 1967.
"Iceland is the first country in Western Europe to take this step," Minister for Foreign Affairs Ossur Skarpheinsson told RUV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. He said the vote has given him the authority to make a formal declaration on the government's behalf, but before doing so he will discuss the move with other Nordic countries.
The resolution, which coincided with the United Nation's annual day of solidarity with the Palestinian people, recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization as the legal authority for a Palestinian state and urged Israel and Palestine to reach a peace agreement.
The vote comes shortly after the Palestinians successfully gained admission to the United Nations' cultural agency UNESCO. Iceland was among 11 European Union members to support that move, which was part of a larger effort to gain recognition as a state in the world body.
However, the suspected failure to win the required support of nine of the Security Council's 15 members, and a promise from the United States that it will veto any council resolution endorsing membership, is threatening to stall the move for full U.N. membership.
In a message to the U.N. Tuesday, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas reaffirmed Palestine's bid for membership, saying it should complement peace negotiations provided Israel is prepared to negotiate on the basis of 1967 borders.
In a message read out by Palestinian U.N. observer Riyad Mansour, Abbas said Palestine's decision to apply to join the United Nations "is our legitimate right" based on the 1947 U.N. resolution to partition Palestine into two states.
Icelandic lawmaker Amal Tamimi, who was born in Palestine, welcomed her parliament's move as a first step.
"I hope that more countries will follow suit," she told The Associated Press.