US warns EU on backing Palestine statehood: report

The Guardian, JERUSALEM

Wed, Oct 03, 2012 - Page 7

The US has warned European governments against supporting a Palestinian bid for enhanced status at the UN, saying such a move “would be extremely counterproductive” and threatening “significant negative consequences” for the Palestinian Authority, including financial sanctions.

A US memorandum, seen by media, said Palestinian statehood “can only be achieved via direct negotiations with the Israelis” and urged European governments “to support [US] efforts” to block the bid. The message was communicated by officials to representatives of European governments at the UN General Assembly in New York last week.

Palestinian officials accused the US of exerting “tremendous pressure” on European governments to oppose their bid for upgraded “non-member state” status at the General Assembly. Announced by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas last week, the move is a significant diminution of Palestinian ambitions after its application for full statehood last year failed when it was blocked by the US in the UN Security Council.

The Palestinians will wait until after the US presidential election early next month before proceeding with their bid for upgraded status. However, they insist they will press for a vote by the end of the year and are confident of winning a comfortable majority among the UN’s 193 countries. The US has no veto at the General Assembly.

The memo said a Palestinian resolution on non-member state status “would have significant negative consequences, for the peace process itself, for the UN system, as well as our ability to maintain our significant financial support for the Palestinian Authority.”

It added that a successful resolution could lead to Palestinian participation as a state in international bodies such as the International Criminal Court. Israel is concerned that Palestinian recourse to the court could have repercussions for its policies on settlements, occupation of the West Bank and blockade of Gaza.

Hanan Ashwari, a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee, described the memorandum as “typical American behavior, but also overkill.”

“It is ridiculous and unconscionable the way they put themselves at the service of Israel in such a blatant way. This is tremendous American pressure and bias,” she said.

She added that most European countries had already decided their position on the issue: “I don’t think [the US] will make countries change their minds.”

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said the memorandum reflected the US position, but he hoped that “the Europeans will follow their interests and choose peace over settlements.”