UN membership of Palestine:Must be unconditional

United Nations: Expressing hope that the process to grant Palestinian request for statehood at the UN would be concluded expeditiously, India today said Palestine`s membership to the world body should not be made "conditional" upon a peace agreement.

India reiterated its support to the Palestinian statehood request saying the call of the international community for democracy and respect of fundamental rights will "sound hollow if the present impasse continues and Palestinians are denied their aspirations."

"We cannot make Palestine`s membership to the United Nations conditional upon a peace agreement for that will be legally untenable, even while we support resumption of direct talks to resolve the outstanding issues," Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed said at a Security Council debate on the situation in the Middle East and Palestine.

He said India, which was the first non-Arab country to recognize the State of Palestine in 1988, hopes that the Palestinian application process will be "concluded expeditiously" given that Palestine fulfills all criteria mentioned in UN Charter for membership.

Ahamed said the issue of Palestine took a "decisive turn" in the history of the Middle East conflict after President Mahmoud Abbas filed the application with the UN Secretary General last month.

India`s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said in his address to the General Assembly on September 24 that India looked forward to welcoming Palestine as an equal member of the United Nations. India recognizes the democratic aspirations of all people, including in the Middle East, Ahamed said.