September 1, 2011 - 12:00am

The European Union remains undecided whether to recognize the Palestinian push for recognition at the United Nations, diplomats said Thursday.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Thursday the question remained "hypothetical" because no resolution had been tabled yet.

Ashton said the EU's 28 members were united "over the most critical issue, which is to try to get the talks moving," and reiterated the bloc's position that Israeli settlement-building in the occupied territories is illegal under international law.

"We need to find a way to create a two-state solution, a secure, stable Israel living side by side with a secure, stable Palestinian state," she said after meeting Filippo Grandi, head of the U.N. agency aiding 4.7 million Palestinian refugees.

The changes brought about by the Arab Spring make the need to reach agreement more important than ever, she said.

The Palestinian statehood bid comes amid stalled peace negotiations with Israel. Israel and the United States oppose the bid, saying a state must be established through negotiations. Israel has been lobbying EU capitals not to endorse the move.

Diplomats expect a split among EU members akin to that over Kosovo's independence, which five members of the 28-nation bloc refused to recognize. They say Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden may back the resolution.

News of the possible EU split came a day after French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he wanted to see a united European Union voice on the issue of Palestinian statehood at next month's United Nations General Assembly and urged the United States to do more for peace.

"The 27 countries of the European Union must express themselves with one voice," Sarkozy said in an opening speech to an annual conference of French ambassadors.

"The role of the U.S. is uncontested and irreplaceable, but everybody sees that it is not enough. We have to widen the circle of negotiation, think of the role and pertinence of the quartet."

Sarkozy said the world could not continue to leave the Israel-Palestinian peace process frozen while the Arab Spring forces change elsewhere in the region.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017