A Palestinian bid to upgrade its UN status to a sovereign country would jeopardize the peace process with Israel and make it difficult to get the two sides to return to talks on a two-state solution, the US said on Monday.

But the diplomatic drive by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas received support from Russia and Arab countries at a UN Security Council debate on the Middle East situation.

Having failed last year to win recognition of full statehood at the UN, Abbas said last month he would seek a less-ambitious status upgrade at the world body to make it a non-member observer state, like the Vatican.

The president of the 193- member UN General Assembly, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, has said the issue will likely be debated in mid-November, after the US elections. Washington argues that a Palestinian state can only be created through direct talks.

“Unilateral actions, including initiatives to grant Palestinians non-member state observer status at the United Nations, would only jeopardize the peace process and complicate efforts to return the parties to direct negotiations,” US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, told the Security Council.

“Any efforts to use international fora to prejudge finalstatus issues that can only be resolved directly by the parties will neither improve the daily lives of Palestinians nor foster the trust essential to make progress towards a two state solution,” Rice said.

Israel’s envoy to the UN, Ron Prosor, told the Security Council that there were no ‘shortcuts,” “quick fixes,” or “easy solutions.”

“Peace must be negotiated,” he said. “It cannot be imposed from the outside.”

Prosor added that those thinking it will be possible to return to “business as usual” between Israel and the Palestinians if the gambit is successful “are mistaken.”

“How can Israel be expected to abide by the same agreements that the Palestinian leadership ignores whenever it is convenient?” Prosor said, arguing that the Palestinian bid is a clear breach of the Oslo accords.

“How could anyone expect the Israeli public to trust this Palestinian leadership when it signs future agreements?” Prosor, who dubbed the Palestinian move a “march of folly,” decried that the Palestinians were opting for unilateralism rather than direct negotiations.

He also took the international community to task for saying nothing when the Palestinians walked away from a comprehensive proposal Israel put on the table at talks in Amman in April.

“Every member state that lends it hand to supporting Palestinian unilateralism at the UN will be responsible for the grave consequences that follow,” Prosor warned. “Symbolic declarations will change nothing on the ground. They will only raise expectations that cannot be met. This is a recipe for instability and, potentially, violence.”

Cameron: Talks the only path to statehood

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron, at a speech in London to the United Jewish Israel Appeal, said he wanted to tell Abbas something “very clearly: There is no path to statehood except through talks with Israel.”

“So if the Palestinian plan is simply posturing with the UN rather than negotiating with Israel, Britain will never support it,” he said. Cameron also said that Britain will “never support anyone who sponsors a football tournament named after a suicide bomber who killed 20 Israelis in a restaurant. We will not tolerate incitement to terrorism.”

Cameron noted that it has been seven years since the Palestinians voted for a PA president and six years since the last parliamentary elections.

“The Palestinian leadership needs to refresh its mandate and show it has the consent of its people, starting with municipal elections later this month,” he said. “And it needs to resolve the situation in Gaza and restore to Palestinians a unified leadership able to deliver peaceful resolution of the conflict with Israel.”

Turning to Israel, he said that Israel needed a real drive to improve life for ordinary Palestinians.

“That means more support for economic development in the West Bank, relaxing restrictions on Gaza, ending the demolition of Palestinian homes, and yes, it means meeting Israel’s obligations under the roadmap and under international law to halt settlement building,” he said. “Britain’s position will not change. Settlements beyond the green line are illegal.”

Russia, Arab states throw weight behind gambit

Egypt’s UN Ambassador Mootaz Ahmadein Khalil, speaking to the council on behalf of the Arab nations, said it fully supported the Palestinian bid.

“We expect the General Assembly to adopt a resolution during its current session to upgrade the status of Palestine to become a ‘non-member observer state,’ as a first step towards reaching full membership,” he said.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said: “We believe that the initiative to gain broad international recognition for Palestinian statehood...

complements efforts to achieve a negotiated solution to the conflict with Israel rather than serve as an alternative.

“In no case should they be used by Israel to tighten the screws in the occupied territories or exert any other pressure on the Palestinian Authority,” he said.

The Palestinians won admission to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in October last year, a move that prompted the US to cut off funding to the UN agency.

A 1990s US law prohibits US funding to any UN organization that grants full membership to any group that does not have “internationally recognized attributes” of statehood.

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