The British government is “assessing the implications” of the Palestinian decision to apply for membership of the International Criminal Court, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office told Ahram Online.
Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestinian Authority, on Wednesday signed about 20 international treaties, including the Rome Statute, the ICC's founding treaty.
“We are assessing the implications” of the move, an FCO spokesperson told Ahram Online.
The US has condemned Abbas’s actions as "an escalatory step" on the part of the Palestinians, suggesting it “is entirely counter-productive and does nothing to further the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a sovereign and independent state."
Last July, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond reiterated his country’s determination to put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of the worst atrocities by supporting the ICC.
Hammond said he is proud that the UK “is at the forefront of global efforts to strengthen international justice and to ensure the voices of victims will always be heard.”
By joining the ICC, the Palestinians hope to hold the Israeli military and government accountable for their actions in the occupied territories and the Gaza Strip.
However, the UK believes that Palestine's membership of the ICC should be negotiated within the peace process with Israel, hinting Abbas’ decision wouldn’t help peace efforts.
"Our priority remains achievement of a two-state solution,” the FCO spokesperson said.
She echoed the US view that negotiations between the two sides are the only "realistic path" towards peace.
“We continue to believe that the best way to achieve this in reality and on the ground is through negotiations." she said.
The Palestinian move follows the rejection of a UN Security Council Palestinian-worded draft resolution demanding an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories by the end of 2017.
While the UK abstained, eight members of the 15-strong UNSC voted for that resolution and the US and Australia voted against it.
The British government called on “all parties not to take unilateral steps which would make the search for peace based on negotiations harder.”