Quartet meets in New York to avert Palestinian UN crisis

By REUTERS
September 19, 2011 04:16

Clinton meets with Ashton looking for a "way forward," denies lack of progress; US, Russian, EU, UN diplomats meet as part of effort to persuade PA from UN statehood bid.

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Members of the Middle East Quartet

quartet REUTERS 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

NEW YORK - A last-ditch international push began in New York on Sunday to try to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and avert a crisis over Palestinian statehood at the United Nations as members of the so-called Quartet of Middle East mediators met in New York.

Officials met two days after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he would demand full membership of the world body for a Palestinian state at the UN General Assembly this week, setting up a diplomatic clash with Israel and the United States.

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held talks with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. Asked before the meeting if either could report any progress, Clinton replied, "We are meeting to talk about the way forward." Asked if that meant no progress, she said, "I didn't say that."

Senior diplomats from the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations - the Quartet - met on Sunday, an EU official said, as part of an intense effort in recent weeks to persuade the Palestinians to drop their UN plans.

The official said the diplomats were assessing the situation, but gave no further details.

Washington and Israel say a UN vote over Palestinian statehood would damage chances for peace negotiations, arguing that a state can only be created through a settlement between the two sides.

But in a televised speech on Friday, Abbas said he would request the Palestinians' "legitimate right, obtaining full membership for Palestine." The Palestinians say almost 20 years of on-off direct talks on statehood envisaged by interim peace accords have hit a dead end.

The United States says it will veto in the Security Council a Palestinian application for full UN membership, but former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who serves an an envoy for the Quartet, said on Sunday a showdown could still be averted.

Blair told reporters, "The Palestinians are here at the UN now, so the question is ... can people find a way that enables the Palestinians to take a significant step forward to statehood at the same time as not ending up in a situation where the UN replaces negotiations?"

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