U.S. President Barack Obama has told his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, that United Nations action will not achieve a Palestinian state. But the Palestinians say they will push on with a request for U.N. recognition that could bring the issue to a head on Friday.
White House officials say Mr. Obama warned the Palestinian president late Wednesday in New York that the U.S. will veto any U.N. Security Council move to recognize Palestinian statehood.
Senior Palestinian aides said the pursuit of full U.N. membership will not be slowed and they vowed to reject any “political maneuvering” on the issue. But they added that Palestinians will give the Security Council “some time” to study their application for full membership before taking it to the U.N. General Assembly.
Earlier Wednesday, Mr. Obama said there is no “short cut” to peace in the Middle East. He said peace will not come through “statements and resolutions at the United Nations” but through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, speaking to the General Assembly shortly after Mr. Obama, broke sharply with the U.S. position. The French leader supported enhanced observer status for the Palestinians in the General Assembly while peace negotiations with Israel would resume under a firm timetable to reach a final agreement.
The U.S. has no veto over a General Assembly resolution, and the Palestinians enjoy overwhelming support there.
In a meeting with Mr. Obama earlier in the day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the U.S. pledge to block a unilateral statehood bid by the Palestinians a “badge of honor.”
South African President Jacob Zuma said his country, a non-permanent Security Council member, fully supports Palestinian statehood.
Thousands of Palestinians rallied in towns across the West Bank Wednesday in support of the push for full recognition.
Senior diplomats from the Mideast Quartet – the U.S., EU, U.N. and Russia – began to outline a compromise agreement to the Israeli and Palestinian governments.
The Associated Press reported that under the plan, Palestinian leaders would petition the Security Council on Friday, as expected, but would agree not to press for action on the request for statehood recognition for a year, or would withdraw it later. That would give mediators more time to craft a declaration that could draw both sides back to negotiations.
U.S.-mediated peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians stalled a year ago, after an Israeli moratorium on West Bank settlement construction expired. Palestinians oppose construction on land they want as part of a future state.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Wednesday there will be no new freeze on settlement building.