France: EU may recognize Palestinian statehood

Abbas says it would be illogical for US to block statehood bid in UN; Sarkozy reportedly gives Abbas "clear support" for creation of state.

PA President Abbas, French President Sarkozy 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen)
PA President Abbas, French President Sarkozy 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen)
France said Thursday that European nations were considering unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.
“Recognition of the state of Palestine is one of the options which France is considering, with its European partners, in a bid to relaunch the peace process,” AFP quoted French Ambassador Gerard Araud as telling a UN Security Council debate on the Middle East.
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By contrast, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urging Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table, reiterated her opposition to a proposed UN declaration of Palestinian statehood.
“We do not support any unilateral effort by the Palestinians to go to the United Nations to try to obtain some authorization or approval vote with respect to statehood,” she told PBS’s Charlie Rose in an interview late on Wednesday night. “We think we can only achieve the two-state solution that we strongly advocate through negotiation.”
The Palestinians are threatening to seek a unilateral declaration of statehood at the UN General Assembly when it opens in September.
In Paris, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday it would “illogical” for the United States to block a Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN.
Clinton expressed her hope that “everyone would realize that negotiations are the only way,” noting that US President Barack Obama “has said that he will continue to press both sides, which is what we believe we have to do.”
She described the regional turmoil as prompting both sides to hold back and evaluate the effect the shake-up has had on their interests.
But despite the recent tumult, she stressed that “it is in the best interest of both the Israelis and the Palestinians, even in the midst of everything going on in the region, to try to turn to the hard work” of striking a deal.
Clinton’s comments came as US and Israeli officials jostle to fill the diplomatic vacuum created by stalled talks and regional paralysis. Both Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have been giving indications they plan to lay out an initiative for making an Israeli- Palestinian deal, as they seek to stave off momentum toward a General Assembly vote on Palestinian statehood.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu to address Congress in late May was highlighting tension with Obama and had launched a “bizarre diplomatic race” over whether Netanyahu or Obama would be the first to lay out a new diplomatic initiative.
According to the story, the White House has been debating for about three months whether Obama should propose a new Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. The report said that both Obama and Clinton favored the idea, while senior Middle East aide Dennis Ross opposed it.
Netanyahu was considering whether to “preempt” Obama with a proposal of his own, according to the report.
The idea that there was a battle over who would present the ideas first seemed to be belied by the fact that for months Netanyahu has been coming under pressure from leading statesmen around the world, including from the US, to take the initiative and present a plan to break the diplomatic logjam.
At the end of February, aides close to Netanyahu began saying he would present an initiative of his own in a major policy address, possibly to Congress in May.
The aides have said ever since that there has been close coordination between Israel and the US about the initiative.
Netanyahu and Obama spoke by phone on Monday and agreed to talk again in the coming days, and officials in the Prime Minister’s Office denied that there was tension between the two men as a result of the scheduled address to Congress.
According to the Times report, White House officials were working on drafts of a proposal, but had not decided how detailed it would be or even whether Obama would deliver it in a planned speech. The article said that such a plan could include four principles: Israel’s acceptance of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines; Palestinian acceptance that there will be no refugee “right of return”; Jerusalem as a capital of both Israel and a future Palestinian state; and that Israeli security would have to be protected.
Martin Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel and a Washington insider, warned on Army Radio Thursday that as things currently stood, the Palestinians were on the path to an endorsement of their position in the General Assembly – where, unlike in the UN Security Council, the US didn’t wield a veto – come September.
“If there isn’t anything else, then in September there will be a vote in the UN that will recognize a Palestinian state, just like the UN recognized Israel in 1948,” he said.
“Tactically, it is very easy for the Palestinians to go to the UN – it doesn’t cost them anything, and it puts pressure on Israel,” he assessed. “As a strategy, Israel needs to think about the day after the vote.”
Still, he said the prevailing view in Washington was that Netanyahu could make a successful diplomatic overture.
“It’s a challenge for him,” Indyk said, “but the common opinion in Washington is that Netanyahu, as a man of the Right, is more capable than others in Israeli politics to mobilize support from the Right and the Left for a twostate solution.”
Abbas, in Paris for talks with French leaders, noted that Washington already backs the formula of a Palestinian state coexisting in peace alongside Israel to end the long-standing conflict.
“In principle we have a lot of signs that the United States is ready to recognize the Palestinian state,” he told France 24 television in an interview broadcast on Thursday. “If the United States is not ready, it would not be coherent and logical.”
Abbas expressed optimism that the bid would receive broad support, despite a lack of concrete promises from abroad.
“But all signals from these states and organizations show they are waiting for the right time to recognize the Palestinian state,” he said. “We are also waiting for the right time. We have gone beyond that because we think that question should not hold up dialogue with the United States.”
After meeting French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Francois Fillon, Abbas told journalists that he had not raised the issue of statehood with the president – adding that France’s position was clear.
A source in the presidential office said Sarkozy had given Abbas his “clear support” for efforts leading to the creation of a Palestinian state. Fillon said last month that 2011 “should be the year when a Palestinian state is created.”
Reuters contributed to this report.