May 5, 2011 - 12:00am

In a sign of Britain's impatience with Israel British Premier David Cameron told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday that Britain may endorse a unilateral declaration of state by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas if Israel declines to take part in substantive peace negotiations with the Palestinians to create a two state solution.

"Britain's clear and absolute preference is for a negotiation to take place between Israel and the Palestinians which leads to a two state solution which everyone endorses," a senior diplomatic source was quoted by the Guardian as saying.

However, the source stressed that at this point, "Britain is not ruling anything out. The more Israel engages seriously in a meaningful peace process the less likely it is that this question of unilateral declaration would arise."

Addressing the prospect of a unilateral declaration of independence by Abbas at the UN general assembly this upcoming September, the source said, "The US would obviously not support that (declaration). That places Europe as a swing voter. Britain, France and Germany can play quite an influential role in determining the outcome of this.

"The Palestinians would secure quite a bit of support at the UN. Europe would be asked a very difficult question and we don't know yet what the answer to that question will be. But the problem with no peace process is that it allows that question to be put," he was quoted as saying.

Britain does not demand that Hamas recognize Israel as a prerequisite for statehood, unlike Quartet members the UN, EU, Russia and the US.

Will France follow suit?

Thursday will see Netanyahu meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who will reportedly echo Cameron's sentiment as to Paris' stance.

"Our idea would be to use the donors' conference meeting at the end of June to hold a real political conference and restart the dialogue,"

Minister of Foreign Affairs Alain Juppé said Wednesday.

"Our idea is to try a last resort initiative, so that, in the month of September, when the question of recognizing (a Palestinian state) is raised, we can say we tried everything," he added.

Sarkozy himself implied in an interview with L'Express that France may choose to recognize a Palestinian state later this year, if the peace process cannot be reignited.

"If the peace process resumes during the summer, France will say that you have to leave the protagonists to talk without forcing the calendar," Sarkozy told the magazine.

"If, on the other hand, the peace process is still a dead letter in September, France will assume its responsibilities on the central issue of recognizing a Palestinian state."


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