Russia Backs Palestinian Bid for U.N. Statehood

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Russia said Monday it would vote in favor of a controversial Palestinian bid to win U.N. statehood despite strong resistance to the idea from both Israel and the United States.

Russia's ambassador to the world governing body said Moscow was not pushing the Palestinians to submit their candidacy at the United Nations but would back the proposal if it came up for a vote.

"We will, of course, be voting for any of the Palestinians' proposals," Vitaly Churkin was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

"But I must say that we are not pushing them into it. We are saying that 'Whatever you decide to do, we will support you,'" Churkin said.

The Palestinians intend to seek full membership later this month and were meeting in Cairo with Arab League ministers on Monday to discuss whether to make their request to the Security Council or to the General Assembly.

Russia held several rounds of talks with visiting Palestinian delegations earlier this year and has previously voiced support for a UN vote on the establishment of a Palestinian state.

But it has never explicitly said that it would be voting in favor of statehood -- an idea rejected by both Israel and the United States as well as several European states.

Russia has been a strong Palestinian ally since the Soviet era but has in recent years been establishing much closer diplomatic and economic relations with Israel.

Churkin said that Russia's message to the Palestinians was that it is "up to you to decide what you want to do at the United Nations".

He added that U.N. statehood would help the Palestinians by providing them with direct access to economic assistance organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

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