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European Nations Mull Independent Palestinian State


French President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) are seen after their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Apr 21 2011

French President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) are seen after their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Apr 21 2011

Prominent European nations appear headed toward recognizing an independent Palestinian state in September unless Middle East peace talks are restarted.

Both French and British leaders said this week they were prepared to support a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state if peace talks are not relaunched by September - when the United Nations General Assembly may take up the issue in New York.

Those positions - announced by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron - appeared to deal a blow to efforts by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to drum up European support during meetings with the two leaders this week.

Yossi Mekelberg - a Middle East analyst who works at Chatham House and Regent's College in London - says that while Europe wants peace talks, it may opt for recognizing a Palestinian state for lack of other options.

"I think that it's a growing possibility and it's more out of desperation than actually that anyone would like to see a unilateral action," he said.

More than 110 countries have recognized Palestine diplomatically. That includes European Union members Poland, Romania and Hungary. But the EU is far from unified on the matter. During a meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she opposed unilateral steps by the Palestinians.

"I would tell you that it's less than desirable," agrees analyst Mekelberg. "Because at the end of the day, the Israelis and Palestinians need to negotiate. And I would actually like to see the European Union be more proactive in advancing negotiations together with the United States working in tandem," he said.

A chance for that might arise next month when Paris will be hosting a donors conference for a future Palestinian state. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said his government hoped to use that meeting as a platform to restart Middle East peace talks.

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