THE United States and Britain have urged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to call off a scheduled vote in the UN General Assembly to recognise a state of Palestine.
The State Department in Washington said two top US diplomats met with Abbas in New York on Wednesday in a bid to halt Palestinian efforts to achieve statehood recognition through the United Nations.
The 193-nation assembly is to meet on Thursday (0700 AEDT Friday) to discuss and vote on a draft resolution to recognise a Palestinian state and grant it UN membership.
There was no indication at UN headquarters in New York that the special assembly meeting would be postponed.
Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and the US Mideast peace envoy, David Hale, met with Abbas on Wednesday to stress the US government’s concern about the initiative, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
“We’ve been clear. We’ve been consistent with the Palestinians that we oppose the observer state status in the General Assembly and this resolution,” Nuland said, noting that the move would not achieve the Palestinian goal of an independent state alongside Israel.
Nuland said Washington made its point to other countries, even as US allies such as France have said they would support the Palestinian bid: “Obviously, every country will make their own decision.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians were “the only way to get a lasting solution” in the Middle East.
“The path to a two-state solution that fulfils the aspirations of the Palestinian people is through Jerusalem and Ramallah not New York,” she said in Washington.
“No matter what happens at the United Nations, it will not produce the outcome that this government, this president and certainly I strongly support,” she said.
In Berlin, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Germany would vote against the draft resolution.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague in London said Abbas had refused his request not to proceed with the UN vote.
Hague said Britain was most likely to abstain in the UN vote.
“President Abbas has decided to press ahead, a decision we must respect,” Hague said. “No one should be in any doubt that he is a courageous man of peace.”
Both the US and Israel said the draft resolution to recognise a state of Palestine would have adverse consequences on the peace process.
If a simple majority of assembly members vote to support a Palestinian state, it would allow it to join the world organisation as a so-called non-member observer state.
The draft calls for the reaffirmation of the “right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to independence in their State of Palestine on the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.”
It also calls for the UN Security Council to give the future state of Palestine “full membership” in the UN.
The Palestinian Authority in September 2011 submitted the application for UN membership but failed to obtain the nine votes necessary to pass it in the 15-nation council. The US had threatened to veto the application.
The draft calls for the “resumption and acceleration of negotiations within the Middle East peace process” based on UN resolutions.
The US and other Western powers had warned that UN recognition of a Palestinian state would void previous agreements that support negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to establish a Palestinian state living in peace next to Israel.
But Palestinian officials predicted passage of the draft, which had been revised to win as many votes as possible.
The draft says a total of 132 countries have expressed recognition of a state of Palestine. But many of these countries support the road map that calls for negotiations to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.