Palestinian showdown drama at UN

2011-09-20 19:00
New York - Frantic diplomatic efforts gathered pace on Tuesday as the Palestinians rode roughshod over Israeli and US opposition and pressed their bid to demand full UN membership for a Palestinian state.

Launching the opening gambit on Tuesday, Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki called on the United States to drop its fierce opposition with the clock ticking to a showdown set for Friday.

"I hope that the United States will change its position and follow the majority of countries which want to support the Palestinian right to self-determination and an independent state," Maliki said after meeting his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro.

Frustrated by the stalemate in the Middle East peace process, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has vowed to submit a formal application to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday at about midday (16:00 GMT).

The Palestinians argue they should be given full UN membership as a Palestinian state - something opposed by Israel and the US as a bid to circumvent the dragging peace talks which ground to a halt a year ago.

Maliki reaffirmed the Palestinians will seek Security Council recognition of an independent Palestinian state, and said they believed they could win the necessary votes of nine of the council's 15 members.

But the United States, one of five permanent members of the council, has said it will veto any Palestinian bid, paving the way for a bitter confrontation at the world body.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted on Monday the United States was leading "extremely intensive" diplomatic efforts to resolve the standoff.

Two-state solution

"We continue to believe and are pressing the point that the only way to a two-state solution, which is what we support and want to see happen, is through negotiations," the chief US diplomat told reporters.

"No matter what does or doesn't happen this week, it will not produce the kind of result that everyone is hoping for," Clinton said.

Clinton met on Monday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss a statement to be drafted by the Middle East Quartet aimed at finding a path back to the peace talks.

"They also talked about what some of the elements might look like in a statement that could provide a useful framework or context for negotiations between the two sides," a US official said, asking to remain anonymous.

But the Palestinians were on their own diplomatic drive to drum up support at the United Nations, buoyed by about 120 countries which have already bilaterally recognised a state of Palestine or backed such a position.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday sent a letter to UN chief Ban backing the Palestinians bid. "This represents an act of historic justice towards a people who carry with them, from time immemorial, all the pain and suffering of the world," he wrote.

And Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Ankara also supported the Palestinians, adding: "I think it is now right time to start a new, fresh, but inclusive and result-oriented negotiation on Palestinian-Israeli issue."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who arrives here on Wednesday, has called for new direct negotiations with the Palestinians.

Win over nine states

If the Palestinians fail to win over nine of the 15 members of the Security Council, any resolution would fail, saving President Barack Obama from an embarrassing US veto, as he has repeatedly called for the existence of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

"We are going to continue to work to find the nine votes," Maliki said. "If we aren't confident at the moment of getting the nine votes, we will have to make an additional effort to get them. I believe we will succeed."

Yet another option could be for the full UN General Assembly to grant the Palestinians status as an enhanced observer non-member state as enjoyed by the Vatican.

Obama, who has sought to relaunch the stymied peace talks, will meet with Netanyahu on Wednesday but has no plans yet to meet with Abbas.

The Palestinian leader was due, however, to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday and British Foreign Secretary William Hague, as European Union foreign ministers also try to break the impasse.

The 27 EU nations were staying silent on how they would vote on Friday "in order to exert as much pressure on both sides to return to negotiations," Hague said in a statement.

Read more on:    un  |  palestine  |  israel  |  middle east peace

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