Diplomatic efforts to prevent PA turn to UN continue

Quartet envoys to meet today in New York; Netanyahu heads to US, may meet Obama before UN session.

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September 18, 2011 04:13
4 minute read.
Netanyahu speaks at Thursday's press conference

Netanyahu speaks press conference 311. (photo credit: Ben Spier)

A flurry of intense diplomatic activity to prevent the Palestinians’ unilateral statehood bid at the United Nations this week is expected to take place in the next few days, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu prepares to head to New York – possibly as early as Tuesday night.

Envoys from the quartet of Middle East negotiators will meet on Sunday in New York as part of this last-ditch effort.

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“There are ongoing, behind the scenes diplomatic contacts at different levels with the US, the Europeans and others,” an Israeli official told The Jerusalem Post Saturday night.

The official did not elaborate further, but said that diplomatic efforts would intensify this week.

“The next days are crucial,” said Maja Kocijancic, who is a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

“It is for Palestinians to decide on next steps, but we continue to believe that a constructive solution that can gather as much support as possible, and allows for the resumption of negotiations, is the best and only way to deliver the peace and two-state solution the Palestinian people want,” she said.

“We will redouble our efforts together with our partners in the quartet to launch negotiations between the parties as soon as possible. This remains the only way to end the conflict,” Kocijancic said.

Presently, the EU is split on its position with regard to the Palestinian bid for membership at the UN as a state and has yet to decide how it will act in New York.

Once he arrives in New York, Netanyahu is expected to meet with US President Barack Obama, possibly on Wednesday.

Obama has no plans at the present to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Obama, who has clearly stated his opposition to Palestinian unilateral moves at the UN, is expected to speak of his support for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when he addresses the UN General Assembly on Wednesday.

“I think he [Obama] will address, again, how we think the parties can come back to the table, and the basis upon which they can make progress,” said Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes at a press briefing in Washington on Friday.

He added that the US was working with European countries, Russia, the UN and members of the Quartet to seek support to re-launch negotiations.

“We’ve been very clear that we don’t believe that unilateral actions through the United Nations will lead to a Palestinian state – that the way to achieve a Palestinian state is through negotiations between the parties,” said Rhodes.

“So, we believe that for peace to be lasting – for the Palestinians to realize their aspirations – that’s going to have to be accomplished by a negotiation with Israel, not through actions at the United Nations. So that will be the US position in New York,” he added.

On Friday, after he addresses the UN General Assembly, Abbas is expected to submit a formal request to the UN Security Council that it vote on the question of accepting Palestine as a member state in the UN. It is unclear when that vote would take place.

The US, which is one of five countries out of the 15-member body at the Security Council with veto power, is expected to reject the Palestinian bid. The Palestinians are then likely to ask the UN General Assembly to upgrade their status to that of an observer member. They already have majority support for that move in the General Assembly.

In his speech to the UN General Assembly on Friday, Netanyahu is expected to speak against Palestinian unilateral statehood moves and call on the Palestinians to resume negotiations with Israel.

“He is going to say Israel’s truth for the international community, even though he knows that he is addressing a body that is ultimately biased against Israel. He believes that these truths have to be stated,” an Israeli official said on Saturday.

In advance of the UN events in New York, on Saturday night Defense Minister Ehud Barak left for Washington where he is expected to meet with US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and CIA Director David Petraeus.

Separately, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman left Israel on Saturday night for Canada, and is then expected to travel to New York, where he will join Netanyahu at the UN.

Reuters contributed to this story.


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