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Palestinians seek EU recognition

Friday December 17, 2010 10:27:50 AM, Agencies

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Ramallah (West Bank): The Palestinians have asked European countries to recognize an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip — a new step in the campaign to pursue statehood outside the framework of a peace deal with Israel.

Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath said Thursday he asked representatives of several EU countries to recognize the truce lines before the 1967 Mideast war as the borders between Israel and a Palestinian state.

Brazil and Argentina recently recognized Palestine as other countries in the Arab world and Africa have done. Several European countries have upgraded diplomatic relations with the Palestinians, but that is the maximum they would do.

That was apparent when the European Union and the United States issued a new plea Thursday to speed up progress toward a two-state solution encompassing a "viable" Palestine alongside a "secure" Israel.

After meeting US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, on his way back from the region, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said: "We believe that urgent progress is needed toward a two-state solution ... that ends the occupation that began in 1967."

There was no word on a deadline or on a unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state. Last week, EU foreign ministers said they would recognize a Palestinian state "when appropriate."

The EU also told Israel to go beyond its recent easing of its blockade on the Gaza Strip. Ashton said Israel needs "to achieve a fundamental change of policy that allows for the reconstruction and economic recovery of Gaza."

The latest round of peace talks, launched in early September, broke down just three weeks later after a limited Israeli freeze on settlement construction expired.

The Palestinians say they will not resume direct negotiations as long as Israel continues to build homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, saying the construction is a sign of bad faith. Unable to coax a renewed settlement freeze out of Israel, the US is now shuttling between the sides in indirect talks.

Also Thursday, Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rudainah suggested yet another strategy: Asking the United Nations Security Council to condemn Israeli settlement activity.

He said the decision to approach the Security Council "was made after deep study following the failure of all efforts to get the Israeli government to stop settlement activities."

Palestinian officials had previously talked of seeking UN recognition of a state inside the 1967 lines. While they could presumably win a majority in the General Assembly, the bigger prize of recognition by the Security Council, whose decisions are legally binding, would likely face a US veto.

The US routinely vetoes measures Israel considers hostile, and the US House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a resolution "condemning unilateral measures to declare or recognize a Palestinian state."

The Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee harshly slammed the House resolution. It described the decision as "blunt and completely biased in favor of Israel and occupation."

The committee said in a statement that the decision "encourages Israel to continue its anti-peace policies under the direct protection of the United States." "The move contributes to weakening the American diplomacy and its ability to sponsor the peace process and also affects its image in the region," it added.




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