Middle East

BBC poll shows support for Palestinian state

A BBC-GlobeScan poll suggests more people back UN recognition of Palestine as an independent state than oppose it.

Across the 19 countries surveyed, 49% supported the proposal while 21% said their government should oppose it.

The Palestinians say they will ask for full membership at the UN this week but the US says it will veto the move.

International Middle East envoy Tony Blair told the BBC he wants to make sure the move does not undermine chances of a return to peace talks.

The Palestinians are seeking international recognition of their state based on 1967 borders - the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

Israel and the US say a Palestinian state can only be achieved through direct negotiation.

The last round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down a year ago.

A Palestinian delegation to the UN with a symbolic chair for Palestine

Mr Blair, the envoy for the Quartet of Middle East mediators - the EU, UN, Russia and the US - said he was trying to reach agreement on a framework for a return to talks.

"My objective is to secure a basis on which we can renew negotiations," he told the BBC's UN correspondent, Barbara Plett.

He stressed he did not want to stop the Palestinians from going to the UN.

But, he added, "it's only if the two sides sit down together in negotiation that we're going to get what the Palestinians really need, which is a viable Palestinian state, and what the Israelis need, which is a state that guarantees Israel's security."

Varying support

The poll, jointly conducted by the BBC and GlobeScan, saw majority support in four predominantly Muslim countries, with Chinese people also strongly endorsing the proposal.

Even in countries where opposition was strongest, more people polled supported the resolution than were against it.

The United States and the Philippines both polled 36% against the resolution. But 45% of Americans and 56% of Filipinos backed recognition.

The lowest level of support was in India, with 32% in favour and 25% opposed, with many undecided.

Support was strongest in Egypt, where 90% were in favour and only 9% opposed.

In other Muslim countries, Turkey recorded 60% support, 19% opposition; Pakistan 52% for, 12 against; and Indonesia 51% for, 16% against.

Chinese were among the most enthusiastic supporters, with 56% in favour and just 9% opposed.

Public opinion in the three large European Union member states included in the poll was strikingly similar on the issue: France (54% support, 20% opposition), Germany (53% v 28%) and the UK (53% v 26%).

Overall, 30% opted for not giving a definite answer as they thought their country should abstain, or "it depends", or they did not offer a view.

But more than half of Russians and Chileans did not offer a definite opinion.

A total of 20,466 people in 19 countries were interviewed, either face-to-face or by telephone between 3 July and 29 August this year. The margin of error ranges from + or - 2.1% to 3.5%.

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