News / Middle East

    Western Envoys Try Mediation Ahead of Palestinian UN Bid

    Israel's foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman (L) welcomes European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton prior their meeting at the foreign ministry in Jerusalem, September 14, 2011
    Israel's foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman (L) welcomes European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton prior their meeting at the foreign ministry in Jerusalem, September 14, 2011

    Western envoys are shuttling between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in the Middle East to try to limit the fallout from an Israeli-opposed Palestinian plan to seek state recognition at the United Nations.

    EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton released a statement Wednesday saying she hopes that in the coming days, mediators will be able to achieve "something" that enables negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

    Ashton said she extended her stay in Jerusalem to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a second time on Wednesday, at the prime minister's request. A day earlier, she met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

    Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said there will be "grave consequences" if Palestinians proceed with a plan to seek U.N. membership for an independent Palestine during next week's General Assembly meeting. Lieberman did not specify what the consequences would be.

    U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Wednesday the Palestinian plan is "counterproductive" to peace talks, which he called the only path to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    U.S. envoy David Hale and senior White House aide Dennis Ross were expected to meet with Mr. Netanyahu in Jerusalem late Wednesday, before traveling to the West Bank for talks with Mr. Abbas on Thursday. Toner said U.S. officials are trying to "avert any sideshow in New York," where the U.N. headquarters is based.

    Mr. Abbas is scheduled to outline his government's strategy for statehood on Friday.

    Palestinians say they are seeking U.N. recognition after years of negotiations with Israel failed to deliver an independent state. President Abbas backed out of U.S.-led peace talks last year in protest at Israel's decision to end a freeze in settlement building on land the Palestinians want for a future state.

    It is not clear if Mr. Abbas will seek U.N. Security Council approval of U.N. member status for an independent Palestine, or instead seek "non-member status" within the world body.

    The United States says it will veto a Palestinian membership bid in the Security Council. Achieving non-member status requires only a simple majority vote in the 193-member General Assembly. Palestinians currently hold observer status at the world body.

    Some Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee said Wednesday the Republican-led House could vote to cut U.S. aid to the Palestinians if they proceed with the U.N. bid.

    But, former U.S. deputy national security adviser Elliot Abrams urged the committee to avoid a hasty aid cut, saying U.S. security assistance to the Palestinians benefits the interests of Israel and the United States.

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

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