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Clinton Opposes Palestinian UN Move on Settlements

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (file photo)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (file photo)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Thursday expressed opposition to a draft U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity. The proposed resolution was introduced Wednesday and has broad support on the council.

Clinton, for now, is stopping short of threatening a U.S. veto of the resolution if it comes to a vote in the Security Council.

But she says the only viable way to get a two-state settlement of the Middle East conflict is through the face-to-face talks the United States has been trying to broker.

The draft resolution, backed by the Arab league and the Palestinian Authority, declares that Israeli settlements in areas occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and a major obstacle to achieving peace.

The measure is co-sponsored by nearly 120 U.N. member countries and U.N. diplomats say it would probably be supported by 14 countries on the 15-member Security Council if it came to a vote.

The United States has traditionally vetoed resolutions seen as one-sided against Israel and Clinton’s comments Thursday raised the prospect of another veto.

At a press event with Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet, the Secretary said the United States continues to believe, strongly, that the only way to a two-state solution of the conflict is through negotiations by the parties themselves.

"Therefore, we don’t see action in the United Nations or any other forum as being helpful in bringing about that desired outcome. Our position on settlements remains as it has been. I clearly spoke out about that on many occasions, and will continue to do so. But, ultimately, the Palestinian and Israeli people have to make a decision about whether they can engage in negotiations that will result in compromise on both sides to obtain what we believe will be not just two states living side by side in peace and security, but a much better future for the children of both Israelis and Palestinians," she said.

U.S. officials have argued that unilateral steps, those taken without Israel’s consent, complicate peace efforts, and the United States has also opposed the recent recognition of Palestinian statehood by several Latin American countries.

In an open letter to President Barack Obama Thursday, a group of more than 50 former U.S. diplomats, cabinet officials and others urged the administration to support the draft resolution.

The group, including former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering and former chief U.S. Middle East diplomat Richard Murphy, said it is time for a "clear signal of U.S. objectivity" on the Middle East dispute.

They said the proposed resolution is consistent with U.S. policy, and that a veto would undermine U.S. credibility and interests, and put the United States "firmly outside" the international consensus on the issue.

U.S. policy once held that settlements were illegal but the wording has been softened in recent years.

In his 2009 speech in Cairo, President Obama said the United States does not accept the legitimacy of settlement activity, which he said undermines peace efforts and should stop.

The State Department said Thursday that Secretary of State Clinton will discuss peace efforts early next month in a meeting in Germany with fellow foreign ministers of the international Middle East Quartet.

The informal grouping of the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations, was formed in 2002 and has focused lately on building the infrastructure for a Palestinian state.