William Hague has told the Palestinian leader that Britain will support his bid for upgraded status at the United Nations if key conditions are met.
The foreign secretary set out Britain's position on the issue in a telephone conversation with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, on Monday.
America and Israel oppose the Palestinian attempt to become a non-member "observer state" at the UN.
Abbas has defied pressure from Washington and chosen to lodge this application, which will go before the UN General Assembly on Thursday. Hague has signalled that Britain could break with America and vote in favour of the bid. A British official said that he spelt out three conditions.
The first is that the Palestinians will refrain from using their new status to apply to join the International Criminal Court. The official stressed that Israel feared the Palestinians would use ICC membership to bring cases of alleged war crimes against its armed forces. Abbas must "at least defer" any attempt to join the ICC if he is to win support.
The second condition is that Abbas would not ask the Security Council to consider full Palestinian membership of the UN. Lastly, Britain wants Abbas to resume peace negotiations with Israel without preconditions. At present, the Palestinian leader wants Israel to halt the expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem before any talks can begin.
Abbas will almost certainly win the vote: of the UN's 193 member states, 132 recognise the state of Palestine. France made clear its support for the bid yesterday. Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister, said this was consistent with France's long-standing support for Palestinian statehood.
An Israeli diplomat said he would be "surprised" if Abbas were to meet Britain's conditions. In particular, he was unlikely to delay Palestinian membership of the ICC because the "whole purpose" of achieving upgraded status at the UN would be to "open a new front, a new arena against Israel in international fora".