U.S. warns Europe on Palestinian U.N. move

Oct. 2, 2012 at 3:00 AM
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JERUSALEM, Oct. 2 (UPI) -- Washington told European leaders backing a Palestinian bid for enhanced U.N. status would hurt peace and likely lead to U.S. cuts in Palestinian Authority aid.

A General Assembly resolution proposed by the authority for Palestinian "non-member state" status "would have significant negative consequences, for the peace process itself, for the U.N. system, as well as our ability to maintain our significant financial support for the Palestinian Authority," a State Department memo leaked to British newspaper The Guardian said.

Palestinian statehood "can only be achieved via direct negotiations with the Israelis," said the memo, delivered to European representatives at the U.N. General Assembly in New York last week.

The message said the Obama administration was continuing to work toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- envisioning an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel -- and said "provocative, one-sided actions ... could undermine trust or otherwise distract from the pursuit of peace."

It pointed out non-member-state status would give the Palestinians access to U.N. institutions, including the International Criminal Court, which the memo said could have consequences for Israeli policies on its settlements in occupied territories, as well as the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Israel says the blockade is needed to limit Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza on its cities and to prevent the military wing of the Hamas Sunni Islamic political party that governs Gaza from obtaining weapons.

"We believe your government understands what is at stake here, and -- like us -- wants to avoid a collision [later on in the General Assembly] session," the memo said.

"We hope you are willing to support our efforts," the memo said. "We would appreciate knowing where your government stands on this issue. We would also be interested in knowing whether you have been approached on this matter by Palestinian representatives."

The State Department declined to comment on the memo.

A European diplomat told The Guardian if the West seeks to persuade Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "not to pull the trigger, a serious alternative needs to be put on the table, and fast."

Another European diplomat criticized the PA for not engaging in "serious, high-level diplomacy" on the issue.

Some European countries expressed alarm that if Washington withdraws financial support for the authority, the debt-laden European Union would be called to fill the funding gap.

Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashwari, the first woman elected to the Palestinian National Council, called the memo "typical American behavior, but also overkill."

"It is ridiculous and unconscionable the way they put themselves at the service of Israel in such a blatant way," she told The Guardian. "This is tremendous American pressure and bias."

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians' chief negotiator, said he hoped "the Europeans will follow their interests and choose peace over settlements."

He separately told reporters in his West Bank headquarters Sept. 20 the non-member-state resolution was a last-ditch effort to "preserve the two-state solution."

The Palestinian Authority plans to wait until after the Nov. 6 U.S. presidential election before pressing ahead for a vote on the resolution but hopes to have one by year's end, Palestinian officials said. Between now and then, it will begin drafting the resolution, they said.

Erekat said Sept. 20 the authority expected to win 150 to 170 votes of the General Assembly's 193 votes on the resolution. No country can veto a vote in the General Assembly, which is the only U.N. organ in which all member nations have equal representation.

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