Posts Tagged ‘Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’

Lavrov Cancels Visit to Vietnam Amid Russian-UK Nerve Agent and Chemical Weapons Dispute

March 19, 2018


© AFP/File | A visit by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to Vietnam was abruptly called off hours after President Vladimir Putin was re-elected for a fourth term — Lavrov, a notoriously hard negotiating diplomat, has long been part of Putin’s inner circle

HANOI (AFP) – A visit to Vietnam by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was abruptly called off Monday for “unexpected reasons”, Hanoi said, hours after President Vladimir Putin was re-elected for a fourth term.Lavrov, who has long been part of Putin’s inner circle, was scheduled to begin his visit on Monday morning.

But Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the cancellation in an email sent to reporters just an hour before his planned meeting with President Tran Dai Quang.

“Due to unexpected reasons, the visit to Vietnam of Russia’s Foreign Minister will not take place as scheduled,” the emailed statement said.

“We will inform specific time of the visit to press agencies later,” it added.

Lavrov was also due to meet his Vietnamese counterpart on Monday, along with the head of Vietnam’s Communist Party, and hold a press conference.

A security source told AFP that Lavrov had not travelled to Vietnam. “No reasons known yet,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

Moscow said the trip was called off due to a scheduling conflict, according to reports.

“Due to a change in the minister’s work schedule, the dates of his trip to Vietnam are being revised,” Russian agencies reported, citing the foreign ministry.

The 11th-hour cancellation came amid a deepening diplomatic crisis between Moscow and London after former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were exposed to a nerve agent in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.

London has accused the Kremlin of orchestrating an attempted murder on British soil using banned chemical weapons.

Britain expelled 23 Russian officials earlier this month.

The Kremlin reciprocated over the weekend, booting out 23 British diplomats and halting the activities of the British Council in Russia.

Russia was one of Hanoi’s earliest allies, establishing relations in 1950 while Vietnam was still occupied by the French.

Russia is one of Vietnam’s leading trading partners today, and a top military equipment supplier for the communist country.


Russia slams ex-spy poisoning allegations as ‘propaganda (Didn’t they say the same about chemical weapons in Syria?)

March 9, 2018


© AFP/File | Sergei Skripal bought groceries at a corner shop in the southern English city of Salisbury before collapsing

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday dismissed as “propaganda” accusations that Moscow was behind a nerve agent attack on a former double agent residing in Britain.British media and politicians have said the attack on Sergei Skripal, who came to Britain in a spy swap in 2010, bears the hallmarks of a Russian operation.

“They’re levelling accusations against us for everything that goes wrong — according to our western partners — on this very planet,” Lavrov said during a visit to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

“This is propaganda fair and square and it is trying to raise tension.”

While Britain has not formally blamed Russia for the attack, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said it “echoes” the 2006 poisoning in London of former Russian spy and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko.

London blamed Moscow for that attack.

Some 21 people were injured in the incident which took place in the sleepy southwestern English city of Salisbury where Skripal was found on Sunday, slumped on a bench with his daughter Yulia.

“If action needs to be taken, then the government will do that,” British Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged.

National counter-terrorism police have taken over the investigation which they are treating as attempted murder.

Skripal was a former colonel in Russian military intelligence who was jailed for betraying agents to Britain’s MI6 secret service. In 2010, he was pardoned and then flown to Britain as part of a high-profile spy swap involving Russia and the United States.


Syrian Government Uses Ceasefire to Gain Ground

February 28, 2018


BEIRUT: Syrian government forces and allied militias gained ground on Wednesday in clashes with rebels in eastern Ghouta near Damascus as fighting raged despite a Russian ceasefire plan, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

The government forces advanced in the Hawsh al-Dawahira area on the eastern edge of the opposition’s besieged stronghold, the Observatory reported. The Syrian army and rebel sources could not immediately be reached for comment on the report.

The Russian plan is for daily, five-hour ceasefires in eastern Ghouta from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (0700 GMT to 1200 GMT). But after a brief lull, the agreement collapsed into renewed bombardment on Tuesday, the first day of the plan.

Eastern Ghouta, where the United Nations says around 400,000 people live, is a major target for President Bashar al-Assad, who has recovered numerous areas from rebels with Russian and Iranian military backing.

Smoke rises from the besieged Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria, February 27, 2018. REUTERS/ Bassam KhabiehREUTERS

On Feb. 18, the government and its allies began one of the heaviest bombardments of Syria’s seven-year conflict on eastern Ghouta, killing hundreds of people in air and artillery strikes, the Observatory and local rescue workers say.

It led the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution on Saturday calling for a full, 30-day humanitarian ceasefire reaching across all of Syria but excluding some jihadist groups.

Moscow and Damascus blamed rebels for the collapse of the truce on Tuesday, saying fighters had shelled a safe route intended for civilians to leave the enclave.

The insurgents denied such shelling, and a senior U.S. general accused Moscow of acting as “both arsonist and firefighter” by failing to rein in Assad.

A Syrian military source said the corridor was open for a second day on Wednesday to allow civilians, the sick and wounded to leave eastern Ghouta. But state TV reported that no civilians had left the area on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Rebels say people will not leave eastern Ghouta because of fear of the Syrian government. The eastern Ghouta is an area of farmland and towns that represents the rebels’ last major stronghold near Damascus.


Rebels have intensified shelling of nearby government-held Damascus. A medical official in the capital said on Monday 36 people had been killed in four days. Damascus and Moscow say the campaign in eastern Ghouta is needed to halt such shelling.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday the plan would allow aid to be delivered to eastern Ghouta.

But the United Nations said it was proving impossible to aid civilians or evacuate wounded, and said all sides must instead abide by the 30-day truce sought by the U.N. Security Council.

With no sign of decisive international pressure to stop the attack, eastern Ghouta seems likely to meet the same fate as other areas won back by the government, where rebels and dissident civilians eventually left in negotiated withdrawals.

The multi-sided Syrian war has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven half of the pre-war population of 23 million from their homes. Fighting has escalated on several fronts this year, with the collapse of Islamic State giving rise to conflict between other Syrian and foreign parties.

As Assad has pressed the offensive against eastern Ghouta, Turkey has launched an incursion against Kurdish fighters in the northwestern Afrin region. Tensions have also flared between Iran and Israel, alarmed by Tehran’s influence in Syria. Syrian air defences shot down an Israeli F-16 earlier this month as it returned from a bombing raid on Iran-backed positions in Syria.

(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)


Russia says ready to agree on UN resolution on Syria but with caveats

February 23, 2018


MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia is ready to agree on a U.N. Security Council draft resolution in Syria but it needs guarantees on a ceasefire, Foreign Minister Lavrov said on Friday.

“There are no guarantees that (the rebels) will not continue shooting at Damascus residential areas,” Lavrov said in a briefing about discussions on a U.N. ceasefire resolution for Syria.

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Russia’s UN ambassador, Vasily A. Nebenzya, dismissed reports of attacks on civilians in eastern Ghouta as disinformation and propaganda — at a Security Council meeting on February 22, 2018. Credit Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

“That’s why for the resolution to be efficient — and we are ready to agree on the text which would make it so — we propose a formula which would make the ceasefire real, based on the guarantees of all who are inside eastern Ghouta and outside eastern Ghouta,” Lavrov said.



UN Security Council to vote Friday on Syria ceasefire — “400,000 Syrians are living in hell on earth.”

February 23, 2018


Smoke billows following Syrian government bombardments on Kafr Batna in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region. (AFP)
UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council will vote Friday at 1600 GMT on a draft resolution demanding a 30-day ceasefire in Syria to allow for deliveries of humanitarian aid and medical evacuations, diplomats said.
A slightly amended text was circulated to council members, but it was unclear whether Russia would support the measure.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told a council meeting on Thursday that there was “no agreement” on a truce and presented a new raft of amendments.
Negotiations on the draft have dragged on as hundreds of Syrians have died in a fierce government air campaign in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta.
Sweden and Kuwait presented the proposed measure on February 9.
The latest text softens language in a key provision to say that the council “demands” a ceasefire, instead of “decides.”
It also specifies that the ceasefire will not apply to “individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated” with Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group. A previous version simply mentioned the two terror groups.
More than 400 people have been killed in the five-day assault by the government on Eastern Ghouta, where UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said

Russia blocks U.N. agreement on ceasefire resolution for Syria — The Evil Empire Wins

February 23, 2018

BBC News

Media caption“At least in heaven there’s food”: The children caught up in Eastern Ghouta air strikes

Russia says it wants changes to a UN Security Council resolution for a ceasefire in Syria amid growing outrage over civilian deaths in a rebel enclave under Syrian government bombardment.

Russia’s UN ambassador called for “feasible” not “populist” action.

Russia’s ambassador, Vasily A. Nebenzya, dismissed reports of attacks on civilians in eastern Ghouta as disinformation and propaganda. Credit Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

But Western diplomats say Russia is stalling for time and France said failure to act could spell the end of the Security Council itself.

Activists say 400 people have been killed in Eastern Ghouta in five days.

The UN body in New York is due to vote on the resolution on Friday at 11:00 local time (16:00 GMT).

Russia, one of five powers that can veto a resolution, is a key backer of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war. Western powers suspect that Moscow wants to give its ally time to deal a final blow to rebel forces.

The besieged Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta has become “hell on earth,” a British envoy said Thursday. A man carried a wounded boy from bombed-out buildings there on Wednesday. Credit Bassam Khabieh/Reuters

The United States, the UK and France are calling for the resolution to be approved without delay.

What does the resolution say?

The draft, put forward by Kuwait and Sweden, calls for a 30-day nationwide truce to go into effect 72 hours after the resolution is passed.

Medical evacuations and aid deliveries would start 48 hours after that. The draft says 5.6 million people in 1,244 communities across the country are in acute need.

Russia says it has presented amendments to the draft resolution – but Sweden’s UN ambassador Olof Skoog told the BBC that getting aid to the Eastern Ghouta was the main objective.

“I think that without the pressure coming from a united Security Council things are not happening the way they should on the ground,” he said.

“So I think for the council it’s a little bit less about the details and more about giving a political pressure to ensure that this happens.”

A wounded Syrian child is treated at a makeshift clinic after a reported Syrian government strike on Kafr Batna, in the besieged rebel-held Eastern Ghouta (22 February 2018)
Already overwhelmed hospitals are struggling to cope with the influx of casualties. AFP photo

France’s UN ambassador François Delattre said the UN’s inability to help Syrian civilians would result in a devastating loss of credibility.

The draft resolution also calls for all parties to avoid establishing military positions in civilian areas, including schools and hospitals. Sieges of populated areas should be lifted.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing and suit

What are the Russian objections?

Under the terms of the resolution, any ceasefire would not apply to the Islamic State group, al-Qaeda and the al-Nusra Front.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has made clear that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an al-Qaeda-linked alliance that has a presence in the Eastern Ghouta, must also be excluded.

Mr Lavrov said he also wanted to exclude rebel groups in the enclave who are “co-operating” with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and shelling nearby government-held areas.

Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia stressed the need for a resolution that would actually work.

“What we need is not symbolism, not decisions for the sake of decisions, but rather measures that are undertaken that are commensurate with conditions on the ground,” he said.

How bad is the situation in the Eastern Ghouta?

For the fifth day running, Syrian government forces carried out a wave of air and artillery strikes.

The number killed since Sunday has risen to at least 403, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group says, as 46 more died on Thursday.

Damage in the Eastern Ghouta, Syria.

Barrel bombs and shell fire have rained down in what the UN has described as “hell on earth” for the 393,000 people trapped there.

The Syria Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, said residential areas in the town of Douma came under sustained attack, first from ground-to-ground rockets and then government and Russian jets.

Spokesman Siraj Mahmoud said the organisation was being deliberately targeted by government aircraft, with four rescuers killed since Sunday night. “Everyone knows it is an extermination,” he told the Associated Press.

Eastern Ghouta resident: “Missiles are dropping like rain”

The Syrian state news agency meanwhile reported that a child was killed and six civilians wounded in the government-controlled Barzeh district of Damascus by rebel shellfire. Army units responded with “precision strikes”, destroying a number of rebel positions and inflicting heavy losses, it said.

The UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Syria, Panos Moumtzis, echoed calls for a ceasefire.

Referring to the harrowing images coming out of the Eastern Ghouta, he said: “If this is not going to convince [UN security] council members, council states, of the need for a ceasefire, honestly we don’t know what is it that would convince them.”

Rescue workers evacuate a wounded civilian from the site of a reported government air strike in Douma, in the besieged rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, Syria (22 February 2018)Image copyrightAFP
Image captionRescue workers said the town of Douma came under sustained attack on Thursday

The Syrian government has denied targeting civilians and insisted it is trying to liberate the Eastern Ghouta from “terrorists” – a term it has used to describe both jihadist militants and the mainstream rebel groups that dominate the enclave.

Aid groups report dozens of hospitals being put out of action since Sunday.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said the government’s siege was also preventing medics from obtaining essential life-saving supplies, warning that its facilities had completely run out of supplies of blood bags, general anaesthetic drugs and intravenous antibiotics.

Map showing control of the Eastern Ghouta (19 February 2017)

West’s attitude stoking tensions in Balkans: Lavrov

February 19, 2018


© AFP/File | Kosovo declared independence from Serbia 10 years ago. Sovereignty is rejected by Russia, whose Security Council veto prevents Kosovo from joining the United Nations, and five EU countries including Spain and Greece

BELGRADE (AFP) – The West is stoking tensions in the Balkans despite Russia’s pacific stance, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying Monday ahead of a visit to Serbia.Lavrov criticised the West for making Balkan states choose “either you are with the West or with Russia,” in an interview with Serbia’s Beta news agency.

He said the EU tried to get every aspiring member “to harmonise its foreign and defence policies” with that of the bloc, adding that this was “increasing tensions in Europe.”

Serbia is seeking European Union membership. Moscow supports Belgrade in not recognising the independence of the former Serbian province of Kosovo, proclaimed a decade ago.

“It is senseless to talk now about Kosovo’s place in the United Nations,” Lavrov said.

He said that Resolution 1244, adopted in 1999 by the UN Security Council to end the conflict between Serbian forces and Kosovo Albanian pro-independence guerillas, “remains in place and recognises the autonomous province Kosovo as a part of Serbia.”

The normalisation of ties with Kosovo and harmonisation of its diplomacy with that of the EU are among key criteria Serbia has to meet to join the bloc.

“Throughout the history of the Balkans, Russia has always tried to avoid confrontation and helped the people of this region to defend their interests… and their spiritual, religious and cultural roots.”

Lavrov criticised the “politics of encircling Russia with the military infrastructure” of NATO and said one “should not strengthen one’s own security at the expense of the security of others.”

“NATO enlargement is a mistake,” Lavrov said.

Montenegro joined NATO in 2017, while Macedonia is a candidate.

“No action currently undertaken by NATO increases anyone’s security,” Lavrov said.

The minister, due to arrive for a two-day visit to Serbia Wednesday, also defended the role played by the pro-Russian media in the Balkans.

“To protect the pluralism of opinion that the West constantly advocates, to have a different point of view can only be beneficial to listeners, viewers and social network users,” he told Beta.

Reports of hundreds of Russians killed in Syria attempt to exploit war — Just anti-Russian propaganda?

February 19, 2018


MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that reports that hundreds of Russian mercenaries had been killed in Syria recently were an attempt to exploit the war there, the RIA news agency reported.

About 300 men working for a Kremlin-linked Russian private military firm were either killed or injured in Syria in an incident this month, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters last week.

Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Andrew Osborn

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Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, speaks at the Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. (Sven Hoppe-dpa via AP)

U.S.-Russia Tension Flares Over Nuclear Arms Control Now at Risk

February 18, 2018


By Henry Meyer and Patrick Donahue

  • U.S. security chief hits out at Russia after Lavrov criticism
  • Chances of rescuing treaties fading, top Russian lawmaker says

As tensions escalate between Russia and the U.S., the nuclear-armed former Cold War rivals are risking the future of decades-old arms control agreements that have helped to keep a strategic balance and prevent the risk of accidental war.

The conflict played out at a global security conference in Germany where Russia aired grievances about the U.S. and the Trump administration said a new nuclear doctrine unveiled this month doesn’t increase risks. Germany, caught in between, was among European countries voicing concern as both big powers modernize their nuclear arsenals.

H.R. McMaster

Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster defended the U.S. nuclear posture, which envisages building more low-yield bombs, and renewed accusations that Russia is violating a 1987 treaty that bans the deployment of intermediate-range missiles on land.

“We will not allow Russia any of the power to hold the populations of Europe hostage,” he said Saturday in Munich, appearing on stage moments after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov listed a litany of complaints about U.S.-led military expansion since the collapse of Communism.

Syria Clash

Efforts to bridge the divide are stymied by a poisoned atmosphere as the U.S. responds to alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential vote, with 13 Russians indicted Friday including a businessman close to President Vladimir Putin. The two powers are also clashing in Syria, where U.S. strikes killed more than 200 Russian mercenaries who attacked American-backed forces Feb. 7, according to people familiar with the matter.

“In the U.S., the animus is so tremendous that punishing Russia is the thing to do,” Dmitri Trenin, head of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said in an interview. “I see the demise of the entire arms control regime.”

Read more: U.S. said to kill scores of Russian mercenaries in Syria

While the two countries have fulfilled the terms of another landmark nuclear weapons reduction treaty, New START, that accord expires in 2021 and there’s political pressure on President Donald Trump to let it expire because of the alleged Russian non-compliance with the INF treaty. Moscow in turn accuses Washington of itself breaking the intermediate-range pact. So far, no formal negotiations are taking place on either issue.

European Fears

Javier Solana, a Spaniard who served as NATO secretary-general, and Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s acting foreign minister, expressed alarm.

“The most likely theater for nuclear conflicts would once again be here, in the center of Europe,” Gabriel told the conference.

Graham Allison, a Pentagon adviser under former U.S. President Ronald Reagan when the two superpowers were negotiating arms control, said he’s skeptical momentum will be found to revive START and the INF.

Arms control was developed primarily to prevent the “insane” possibility that Russia and the U.S. would annihilate each other due to miscalculation or accident, despite not even wanting to go to war, said Allison, now a professor of government at Harvard University. “Those risks remain today.”

That’s something the Russians can agree on.

According to Sergei Karaganov, a former Kremlin foreign policy adviser, the situation could get “much more dangerous” than during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, when the world was on the brink of nuclear war.

‘No Limits’

Under New START, which followed from the 1991 START treaty and was signed in 2010, the Russian and U.S. arsenals are restricted to no more than 1,550 deployed strategic warheads on no more than 700 deployed strategic missiles and bombers.

If that long-range missile pact isn’t prolonged and the INF collapses, “you have a situation where there are no limits on Russian and American nuclear forces,” said Steven Pifer, a former top State Department official and arms control expert.

In addition, Russia and the U.S. would stop exchanging data on each other’s nuclear arsenals and permitting regular inspections. “It would be less predictable, less secure, less stable,” Pifer said.

Russia would respond to any U.S. move to station land-based intermediate-range missiles in Europe by deploying similar missiles to target “all the bases where these weapons will be,” said Igor Korotchenko, director of the Center for Analysis of World Arms Trade in Moscow.

“And the U.S. can’t stay safe over the ocean — we’ll create the same risk for the U.S. as they do for us in Europe,” he said.

Losing Sight

Sam Nunn, a former U.S. senator and a prominent non-proliferation campaigner, says he’s increasingly concerned that “both countries can lose count of their strategic interests.’’

Some experts such as Thomas Graham, ex-White House adviser under George W. Bush, believe Russia and the U.S. will blink when faced with the prospect of stepping into a void without the security of arms control.

Russia has proposed a 5-year extension to New START, to 2026, though it’s tying that to fixing complaints about the way the U.S. has complied with the treaty, the Interfax news service reported Feb. 16.

“The chances are diminishing every day,’’ said Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the foreign affairs committee of the Russian upper house of parliament.

Palestinian leader seeks Russia’s backing over Jerusalem

February 12, 2018

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. (AFP)
MOSCOW: Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas visits Russia on Monday in a bid to secure Russian President Vladimir Putin’s support following Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The Palestinian leader was set to visit Moscow two weeks after a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Abbas has refused any contact with US President Donald Trump’s administration since Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital at the end of last year. Abbas is due to speak at the United Nations Security Council on February 20.
Palestinians see the US decision, which broke with years of international diplomacy, as a denial of their claim to East Jerusalem as the capital of an eventual Palestinian state.
Israel took control of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War, annexed it and later declared it the indivisible capital of Israel.
The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has accused Abbas of lacking the courage needed to forge a peace deal with Israel.
Abbas in turn has rejected any mediation by Washington in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has promised his people to work toward full recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations.
Alexander Shumilin, a Middle East scholar at the Institute for US and Canadian Studies, called Abbas’s visit “an attempt to cosy up to Russia, a consistent ally, and to stop Netanyahu leading Moscow astray during an improvement in Russia-Israeli ties.”
Netanyahu visited Russia on January 29 and along with Putin attended a memorial ceremony at the Jewish museum in Moscow for the victims of Nazi camps. He took the opportunity to accuse Iran of wanting to “destroy” the Jewish state.
In turn, the Russian president likened antisemitism to “Russophobia” and said Russia and Israel were “cooperating closely,” particularly against “attempts to falsify history.”
For Shumilin, Monday’s visit “is a necessary political gesture for Abbas but can do little in the practical sense.”
“It is also definitely not worth expecting a breakthrough from this visit,” he added.
In 2016 Russia offered to host one-on-one talks without preconditions between Abbas and Netanyahu but these never materialized.
In January, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov estimated that chances of resuming direct talks between the two sides in the current situation were “close to zero.”
Lavrov also said “we understand the emotions” Palestinians feel toward Trump.
“We keep hearing in recent months that the US is about to publish some ‘major deal’ that… will satisfy everyone,” he said. But he added that Russia “has not seen or heard of such a document or even any statement.”
With relations between Washington and Moscow at a record low for the post-Cold War era, Abbas may be expecting that “Russia-US relations will get even worse and then Russia could do something to spite the US,” Shumilin said.
On November 29, 2012, the United Nations designated Palestine as a non-member observer state after a vote by the General Assembly.
That enabled the Palestinians to join international organizations and the International Criminal Court, though they did not become a full UN member state.
Palestinian statehood is recognized by more than 130 countries.