The Obama administration is sending two top envoys back to the Middle East in the hopes of avoiding a looming showdown over Palestinian statehood.
The mission by U.S. Middle East envoy David Hale and senior White House aide Dennis Ross appears to be a last-ditch push to dissuade the Palestinians from seeking statehood at next week’s United Nations meetings in New York – a step Israel strongly opposes.
A senior Palestinian official said Tuesday his government will pursue full U.N. recognition.
But U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton again warned that only direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations will lead to lasting peace. Clinton said Hale and Ross will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Arab ministers meeting in Cairo that Ankara will support the Palestinian bid for statehood, calling it an “obligation,” not an option.
Later, in a major public address, Mr. Erdogan said “Israel’s illegitimate and inhumane policies,” in his words, are the greatest obstacle for peace in the region. He also told Arab leaders the popular uprisings jolting their nations are a “light of hope” for the oppressed and urged them to embrace democracy.
Mr Erdogan’s visit to Egypt is part of an Arab tour that will also include Libya and Tunisia.
Palestinian President Abbas is scheduled to officially outline his government’s strategy for statehood on Friday. Mr. Abbas and Palestinian representatives have been meeting with Arab League officials this week to craft a plan to put before the world body.
Palestinians say they are seeking U.N. recognition after years of negotiations with Israel failed to deliver an independent state. President Abbas backed out of U.S.-led talks last year after Israel resumed settlement construction on land Palestinians want for a future state.
Israel opposes a unilateral Palestinian move towards statehood.
It remains unclear whether Mr. Abbas will seek full recognition from the Security Council as a member state of the U.N., or instead seek “non-member status,” which only requires a simple majority from the 193-member General Assembly.
Palestinians currently hold observer status at the world body.