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US Moves to Avert Showdown Over Palestinian Statehood

The Obama administration is sending two top envoys back to the Middle East in the hopes of avoiding a looming showdown over Palestinian statehood.

A senior Palestinian politician said on Tuesday that Palestinians will pursue full recognition from the United Nations with the start of next week's meetings in New York. But U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Tuesday the only route to a lasting peace runs through Jerusalem and Ramallah.

Clinton told reporters at a news conference in Washington the U.S. wants Israel and Palestinians to resume direct negotiations. She said she is sending Special Envoy for Middle East Peace David Hale and Mideast Adviser Dennis Ross back to the region for meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The U.S. has repeatedly said that Palestinian efforts to get full U.N. recognition would be counterproductive.

Earlier Tuesday, a Fatah party official, Mohammed Shtayyeh, said at a news conference in Ramallah that Palestinians will not be derailed in their pursuit of U.N. recognition. His comments come days before Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to officially outline the Palestinian strategy on Friday.

Abbas and Palestinian representatives have been meeting with officials of the Arab league this week to craft a plan to put before the U.N.

Palestinians say they are seeking U.N. recognition after years of negotiations with Israel failed to deliver an independent Palestinian state. President Abbas backed out of U.S.-led talks last year after Israel resumed settlement construction on land Palestinians want for a future state.

Israel opposes a unilateral Palestinian move towards statehood.

Meanwhile, Turkey's prime minister said Tuesday that the time has come for the Palestinian flag to fly at the United Nations. Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Arab ministers meeting in Cairo that Turkey will support the Palestinian bid, saying it is not an option, but an "obligation."

Erdogan's visit to Egypt is part of an Arab tour that will also include Libya and Tunisia.

It remains unclear whether Mr. Abbas will seek full recognition from the Security Council as a member state of the U.N., or instead seek "non-member status," which only requires a simple majority from the 193-member General Assembly.

Palestinians currently hold observer status at the world body.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.