Khaled Abu Toameh, Hilary Leila Krieger, Tovah Lazaroff
The Jerusalem Post
July 15, 2011 - 12:00am

An Arab League decision to ask the UN to recognize a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines would not serve the peace process, the US said on Thursday.

“We’ve been clear in our conviction that unilateral approaches to try to seek statehood via the United Nations will not lead to a comprehensive settlement,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told The Jerusalem Post in a statement. “That will only come via the hard give and take of negotiations and mutual agreement, and we are committed to working with the parties to pursue it that way.”

His statement came after the publication of a communiqué by the Arab League saying that it had decided to ask the UN to recognize a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital, and to upgrade its status to that of a full member of the international organization.

The Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Doha, Qatar, also decided to entrust the Arab group at the UN to prepare for this move, by taking all the necessary legal measures and following up all efforts and contacts related to this issue, the communiqué said.

The draft statement did not provide a timeline, but Palestinian officials have said they want application to be made in time for the UN General Assembly’s annual meeting in September.

A Palestinian delegate said the Arab League had appointed a committee to set dates.

The Palestinian Authority welcomed the Arab League’s decision after a meeting in Ramallah attended by PA President Mahmoud Abbas and a number of senior PA officials.

An official in Ramallah said that Abbas was planning to visit a number of European Union countries in the coming days to try to persuade them to support the statehood bid at the UN.

Although 115 countries have already recognized a Palestinian state, the United States, Canada and most of the European Union countries have not. Such recognition by Western countries is deemed critical to the success of the Palestinian statehood bid.

Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for Abbas, described the Arab League decision as a “diplomatic offensive” that would form the basis for Palestinian and Arab moves.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Arab ministers had decided to send letters to countries that still hadn’t recognized the Palestinian state, asking them to do so ahead of the planned UN vote in September.

He expressed hope that the US would not veto the statehood bid in the Security Council, noting that the Arab ministers had unanimously backed the PA plan.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu insisted that such a “unilateral step would not bring peace closer.”

“If they [the Palestinians] really wanted peace they would sit down for negotiations, without preconditions. There is no replacement for negotiations,” Netanyahu told Chabad emissaries in Tel Aviv. “We are not strangers in this land. The conflict is not about a Palestinian state and never has been. It’s about the existence of a Jewish state, which they still don’t accept.”

Tony Blair, the Quartet envoy to the Middle East, told Channel 2 that he understood why the PA was adamantly pursuing UN recognition of a state, but that he did not think this would produce a final-status agreement.

Blair stressed that an agreement can only be reached through a negotiated solution and that such an agreement was more pressing than ever.

The Quartet envoy is expected to return to the region soon.

The Quartet met in Washington this week, but failed to release an anticipated statement on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. It consulted again on Thursday, in an attempt to make progress in the stalled peace process.

The State Department said in Washington on Thursday that it saw an opportunity to get Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

“We continue to discuss with our partners ways to get the parties back to the negotiating table,” Toner said of Thursday’s conference call between the US, EU, UN and Russia. “There are still gaps between them and we’re continuing the conversation on how to close those gaps.”

Referring to the possibility of the sides resuming negotiations, he added: “We wouldn’t be pushing forward as aggressively as we have been if we didn’t believe there was an opportunity here.”

Late on Thursday night, a Gazan rocket struck in the western Negev. There were no casualties or damage.


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