PA butts heads with US over September bid at UN

Washington's ME envoy Hale tells Erekat US prefers resumption of peace talks; Erekat says UN bid doesn't contradict efforts to restart negotiations.

David Hale 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
David Hale 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The US administration on Monday reiterated its opposition to the Palestinian Authority’s plan to petition the UN in September for recognition of a Palestinian state on the pre- 1967 lines.
The US stance was relayed to the PA during a meeting in Jericho between Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, US special Middle East envoy David Hale and US Consul General in Jerusalem Daniel Rubenstein.
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According to Erekat, the US officials made it clear that Washington’s preferred option remains the resumption of peace talks with Israel on the basis of US President Barack Obama’s two-state vision.
Erekat said he told the US officials that the PA leadership’s effort to achieve membership of a Palestinian state in the UN does not contradict in any way with efforts to resume the peace process.
He said that admission of a Palestinian state into the UN General Assembly would be based on international law and legitimacy, as well as the terms of reference of the peace process: the road map, the Arab peace initiative of 2002, Obama’s vision and the Quartet policy on the Middle East.
Erekat added that the PA has requested a meeting of the Arab League foreign ministers to set a date for filing a request with the UN to recognize a Palestinian state. He noted that according to UN regulations the Palestinians should submit their request 45 days before the Security Council meeting on September 20.
Erekat also briefed the US officials on the PA’s final decision to proceed with the statehood bid.
The decision was announced late Sunday night following a meeting of the PLO Executive Committee headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary general of the PLO Executive Committee, said the official decision was taken “out of keenness of the Palestinian people and their legitimate leadership to achieve a just and comprehensive peace based on an independent state that would live in peace and security with its neighbors and would abide by all internal laws and conventions.”
Abed Rabbo urged the international community to support the PA’s plan.
Another PA negotiator, Nabil Shaath, said that 115 countries have recognized a Palestinian state, with five that failed to do so until now. He said that Lebanon and Syria were among the countries that still haven’t recognized a state because they believe that recognition of the PLO is sufficient.
Shaath predicted that another 20 countries would recognize a state on the pre-1967 lines within the next two months.
He acknowledged that the PA could face a problem in the Security Council because of Washington’s threat to veto the statehood bid. He said that a veto would not prevent the Palestinians from seeking the status of permanent member in the UN General Assembly.
“We will then use this recognition to go back to the Security Council,” he explained.
Israeli government officials, meanwhile, said the PA decision to move ahead with the UN bid shows that “they have no intention whatsoever of returning to direct negotiations.”
“This is a blow to peace,” one official said, adding that he didn’t think the PA decision was a case of brinkmanship, but rather, that the Palestinians did indeed intend to go through with their September gambit.
Despite the move, the official said US attempts to find a framework to get the sides back to the negotiating table before September were continuing.
“No one is giving up,” the official said, although he called this “definitely a bad sign.”