U.S. promises to block Palestinians' move to become full member of United Nations

U.S. promises to block move to become full member of United Nations

By Josef Federman

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Sept. 15 2011 6:00 p.m. MDT

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki speaks during a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011. The Palestinians will ask the Security Council next week to accept them as a full member of the United Nations, Malki said Thursday, a move that comes in defiance of Washington's threat to veto the statehood bid. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Associated Press

RAMALLAH, West Bank — In a direct challenge to the United States, the Palestinians said Thursday they will ask the Security Council next week to accept them as a full member of the United Nations, even though Washington has promised to veto the measure.

The Palestinian assertion came as a senior U.S. diplomatic team was in the region trying to avert an embarrassing showdown and relaunch peace talks. By pushing forward, the Palestinians risk putting President Barack Obama in the uneasy position of having to veto a measure supported by the vast majority of the international community.

Foreign Minister Riad Malki told foreign journalists the Palestinians were not looking for a fight. But he said the American stance puts the U.S. in a "confrontational position" with the rest of the world, and suggested American credibility could be at stake.

"I don't know what it means to the standing of the U.S. in the United Nations and among the countries of the world," he said.

Even so, the Palestinians left the door open for compromise.

Malki said the Palestinians were still ready to listen to suggestions from American envoys. And in New York, his U.N. ambassador, Riyad Mansour, said a final decision on whether to pursue recognition in the Security Council, or seek a lesser, symbolic status in the General Assembly had not yet been made.

"The final decision will be taken in the next few days as to which path we will follow," Mansour said.

Asked about his boss's comments in Ramallah, he replied: "There are many words from many places, but what I'm telling you is that we are deliberating all these details and it is not yet finalized." Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was to give a speech Friday in Ramallah and there was speculation he might address the issue then.

In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney emphasized that negotiation with Israel was the only viable path to Palestinian statehood.

"The Palestinians will not and cannot achieve statehood through a declaration at the United Nations. It is a distraction, and in fact, it's counterproductive," he said, adding that "the only way to resolve the issues between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and to ultimately create a Palestinian state, is through direct negotiations."

The Palestinians seek an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with east Jerusalem as their capital. Israel captured the territories in the 1967 Mideast war.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects a complete pullout from the West Bank and says Israel must retain east Jerusalem, which it considers an inseparable part of its capital. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

The Palestinians say they are turning to the U.N. in frustration after years of failed peace talks. While a U.N. vote will not change the situation on the ground, the Palestinians believe it will improve their position in future talks. In particular, they say Israel must accept the 1967 borders as the basis of a future agreement.

By doing so, Malki argued Israel could help end its growing international isolation. Israel's relations with key regional allies Egypt, Turkey and Jordan have all grown rocky in recent months.

"I think the best way out for Israel today is to come forward and to recognize the state of Palestine on the '67 borders," Malki said.

Obama himself has endorsed the 1967 lines as the basis for a settlement. But he, like Israel, says a peace agreement can be reached only through negotiations.

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