Ashton says no unified EU stance on UN recognition of Palestinian state 13Sep11 September 13, 2011

Haaretz  -  12 September 2011

There is no definitive European position regarding the Palestinian bid to gain recognition of statehood and membership from the United Nations General Assembly, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Monday, as Palestinian officials claimed Germany’s stance on the Palestinian statehood bid was “not positive.”

“There is no resolution on the table yet, so there is no position,” Ashton said in a statement during a two-day visit to Cairo.

“What is clear from the European Union is that the way forward is negotiations,” which aim to bring “a just and fair settlement” to both Palestinians and Israelis, she added.

Her remarks came after a meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr to discuss the Palestinian bid.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Amr Rushdi said that the Palestinian leadership had been left with no other choice after the peace process had come to a “standstill.”

“Negotiations should not be an end in itself,” added Rushdi but rather “a means to establishing a state and recognizing the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.”

During her Cairo visit, Ashton is scheduled to meet Secretary General of the Arab League Nabil al-Arabi and hold bilateral meetings with foreign ministers of the organization’s member states as well as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Earlier Monday, Russia’s envoy to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin said in a televised interview that Moscow would back the Palestinian bid to secure statehood at the UN, adding that Russia has supported Palestine’s bid for statehood since 1988.

Meanwhile, the foreign ministers gathering in Brussels seemed less united in their positions.

Meanwhile, a senior Palestinian official said earlier Monday that he felt Germany’s position the Palestinians’ statehood bid in the UN is “not positive.”

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle had told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that Berlin did not support the Palestinian UN bid, said Foreign Minister Riyad Malki.

“Germany’s position, like a number of other European Union countries, is not positive,” Malki told Voice of Berlin hoped the European Union would come up with a “unified stand” on the Palestinian plan to go to the United Nations.

He later told Jordanian King Abdullah II that Berlin “encouraged the reactivation of the deadlocked peace process through the resumption of direct negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis.”

Following the meeting with Westerwelle, the Jordanian Royal Court issued a statement, stressing Europe’s role in resolving the Middle East crisis.

“Germany and Europe have an important role to play in backing efforts that seek to re-establish comprehensive peace in the region in the run-up for the creation of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in accordance with the two-state vision,” the statement said.

Malki told Voice of Palestine that Abbas will hear the final European Union position later Monday when he meets EU foreign policy chief Ashton in Cairo, where the Arab League’s follow-up committee on the peace process will hold its final meeting before the Palestinians apply for UN membership.

He said Ashton will try to persuade Abbas “to find a way to prevent confrontation at the UN.”

Westerwelle and Abbas met late Sunday in the Jordanian capital, Amman. The German foreign minister is in the region on a three-day tour.

In his meeting with Judeh on Monday, Westerwelle said Berlin backed the creation of a “viable” Palestinian state through negotiations.

“Germany wants Israel to be within secure borders, but at the same time supports the creation of a viable and independent Palestinian state which can only be achieved through negotiations rather than confrontation,” a Jordanian Foreign Ministry statement quoted him as saying.

According to Palestinian diplomatic sources, Westerwelle tried to thwart the Palestinian drive in bringing the issue to the UN forum and instead urged a resumption of direct peace talks.

The Peace Initiative Committee of the Arab League is expected to meet Monday night in Cairo to shape Arab action plans for the forthcoming meeting at the United Nations, according to Palestinian positions and demands.

The Arab Peace Initiative is a comprehensive peace plan endorsed in the Saudi capital Riyadh in 2007 and which attempts to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Arab foreign ministers will also meet at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on Tuesday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Abbas, who arrived in Cairo Monday, will also attend Tuesday’s meeting at the Arab League.

Unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are non-binding and the United States has been clear that it will use its veto power if necessary.

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