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US Opposes United Nations as Venue for Mideast Diplomacy

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The Obama administration Monday said it opposes shifting the venue of Israel-Palestinian peacemaking to the United Nations. U.S. officials say only direct dialogue and agreement between the parties can produce a two-state settlement of the conflict.

Susan Yackee's interview with David Makovsky, Director of the Washington Institute's "Project on the Middle East Peace Process":

The Obama administration is giving a chilly reception to suggestions that recognition of Palestinian statehood by U.N. or other international bodies might advance prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian accord.

In the face of the current stalemate in U.S.-led Middle East diplomacy, Palestinian and other Arab officials have suggested in recent days that the Palestinians might try to jolt the process by appealing for statehood support from global bodies such as the U.N. or International Court of Justice.

In the latest such comments, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa told the Fox News radio network in Cairo that Arabs are growing impatient with Obama administration diplomacy, and that the "most important alternative is to get back to the United Nations."

At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley was asked to respond to a question by the Arab League chief on Sunday as to "what is wrong with having the U.N. sanction (authorize) or support the peace process?"

"It doesn't solve the conflict. The only way to end the conflict is to resolve the final-status issues. And the only way to resolve the final status issues is through a direct negotiation," he said.  "Unilateral declarations or unilateral actions on one side or the other does not end the conflict, and that is our goal."

Israel has strongly opposed having the U.N. Security Council or General Assembly pronounce on the statehood issue, saying it would violate the 1993 Olso accords that underlie the peace process, and pre-empt negotiations on borders and other key issues.

Spokesman Crowley said a U.N. statehood declaration would be a unilateral move in that it would have the support of only one party in the process. He said a comprehensive settlement, involving all the tracks of the peace process, can be reached only with the consent of all the parties.

U.S.-led direct negotiations stalled in September after the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to extend a nine-month freeze on most Israeli settlement activity.

Mr. Netanyahu flies to the southern U.S. city of New Orleans later this week for a meeting of U.S. Jewish organizations, and is to meet with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

Officials here say there have been contacts with Mr. Netanyahu's office about whether he may be able to meet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington or elsewhere, after her return from Asia early next week.

They said U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell will meet the Israeli Prime Minister while he is in the United States, perhaps in tandem with Clinton.

Spokesman Crowley meanwhile dismissed published suggestions that Mitchell, a former Senate majority leader and Northern Ireland peace negotiator, might soon leave the Middle East post.

He said there are "monthly rumors" about Mitchell's future but that he is not aware of any plan by him to depart.

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