Tue, Sep 20, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Palestinians’ moves spark negotiations

TALKS:Meetings to reach a deal and avoid a showdown at the UN are expected to last right up to Friday, when the Palestinians makes their official request for statehood

AFP, UNITED NATIONS

A new flurry of diplomatic activity was expected yesterday, as major powers and Israeli leaders undertake frantic efforts to avoid a showdown over a Palestinian bid to seek full UN membership as a state.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak held an unannounced meeting on Sunday, a day ahead of a UN General Assembly dominated by a Palestinian bid for UN recognition that the US has threatened to veto.

Fayyad told reporters that the two had discussed “security issues” and the Palestinian Authority’s “readiness to govern.” Israeli officials did not comment on the meeting.

Amid a gathering diplomatic scramble, officials from the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East — the US, Russia, the EU and the UN — held their own meeting.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton held talks with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton. With the US determined to stop full state recognition, Clinton said the two were discussing “the way forward.”

Quartet envoy Tony Blair held separate talks with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was to hold his first meeting of the week with Ban yesterday.

Blair expressed hope that a deal could be reached.

“I think there is a way of avoiding a confrontation,” the former British prime minister said.

Diplomats said that with so few details available about the Palestinian demand for recognition, frantic talks were likely to continue right up to Abbas’ official request to the UN on Friday.

The US has said it will use its right as a permanent Security Council member to veto any resolution backing the Palestinians.

‘CRAZY’ PALESTINIANS

And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that any Palestinian bid through the Security Council would fail, expressing hope the Palestinians would “come to their senses” and drop their unilateral bid for statehood.

The US and Israel insist only direct talks can set up an accord to create a Palestinian state.

If a veto is wielded, the Palestinians could go directly to the UN General Assembly to seek an elevated observer status. It would almost certainly get a majority of the 193 members and no veto is possible.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal suggested in an editorial yesterday that the US Congress cut funding to the UN if it endorses a Palestinian state.

“Perhaps it’s also time to rethink the fundamental desirability of a Palestinian state so long as the Palestinians remain more interested in tearing down their neighbor than in building a decent political culture of their own,” the conservative paper opined.

NO DECISION YET

Britain, France and Germany will have decisive votes on the council. All of their UN envoys say that no decision has been taken on how to vote because they have not seen a Palestinian resolution.

The Palestinians’ willingness to return to direct talks will play a central role in their decision, envoys added. Diplomats say the Palestinians are resisting putting any mention of “direct talks” in their resolution.

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