Western diplomat: Statehood bid will hinder US/PA ties

Envoy: US urging Palestinians not to proceed with bid; says focus of US is on trying to avoid confrontation at the UN, resuming negotiations.

August 11, 2011 02:06
3 minute read.
Victory signs flashed in front of Palestinian flag

palestinian flag_311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ali Jarekji)

A Palestinian decision to go ahead with the bid for statehood recognition at the UN in September will “make it harder for the US to have relations with the Palestinian Authority,” a senior Western diplomat said Wednesday.

According to the diplomat, who requested anonymity, those relations now include both US budgetary support to the PA and the training of Palestinian security forces, something he said had been a “net positive” for the US, Israel and the Palestinian Authority itself.

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“We want to continue,” he said. “If we are all working toward direct negotiations toward a two-state outcome, it is easier to do so as partners. If [the Palestinians] take a different approach, it will be more difficult to work together.”

The diplomat said the US was urging the Palestinians not to proceed with their proposal to take the issue to the UN, believing it was “a bad idea, and that the UN was an inappropriate forum to try and resolve those issues.”

The official said the security cooperation between Israel and the PA has been a “real success story over the last several years,” resulting in vastly improved security conditions for both sides. “We want to see that continue.”

He said the US focus presently was on September and trying to avoid a confrontation at the UN by coming up with a formula for returning to bilateral talks that would lead to a resumption of negotiations, instead of confrontation.

If the formula is not reached before September, he said, “hopefully it can be found after September.”

The diplomat dismissed the notion that the US has been less engaged in the diplomatic process since George Mitchell stepped down as US special Mideast envoy in May, saying Mitchell’s job had been filled by David Hale, who continues to be closely engaged, though less “visible” because he does not attract as much media attention as someone of Mitchell’s stature.

Regarding Israeli-Turkish relations, the diplomat said it was “strongly in the US, Israel and Turkey’s interest to restore some of the positive ability to work together.”

Without saying whether he thought Israel owed Turkey an apology, the diplomat said Israeli-Turkish relations have historically been important and need to be restored “to the degree they can.”

On other issues, the diplomat expressed cautious optimism that conflicting Israeli-Lebanese maritime border claims will not develop into a full-blown crisis, saying the conflicting claims “should be resolved through negotiations,” which the US is willing to assist.

“I think this can be done quietly,” the diplomat added. “It doesn’t have to be a major point of friction.”

His statement dovetailed with comments Michael Williams, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, made in a Reuters interview this week, saying that the signals he was getting from Jerusalem and Beirut were that the countries were trying to avoid confrontation over the matter.

“Neither of them are looking for a scrap on this,” Williams was quoted as saying. “On the contrary, they think they can de-conflict it.”

Israel’s cabinet on July 10 approved the demarcation of the northern maritime border with Lebanon in an effort to protect lucrative gas and oil rights in offshore territories that Lebanon is claiming as its own. Beirut made these claims in a map it submitted to the UN last year of what it claims are its maritime borders.

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