Ma'an News Agency
September 8, 2011 - 12:00am

The differences with Washington over the UN bid are "still wide," a senior Palestinian official said on Wednesday after talks with US envoys in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

"The gap between the Palestinian and US positions is still wide after the meeting," presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP.

"There are efforts being made and an agreement to continue communication with the US administration and the (Middle East) Quartet envoy," he said.

His remarks came shortly after Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas held talks with Washington's Middle East envoy David Hale and Dennis Ross, senior adviser to US President Barack Obama.

Hale and Ross are seeking to head off the Palestinian bid for UN membership later this month.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victora Nuland repeated the US view that bringing the issue of Palestinian membership to the UN General Assembly would be "misguided."

"The only path to two states living side by side in peace and in security is through negotiations," she told reporters.

"You can say whatever you want in the UN, it's not going to lead to that outcome, and it could exacerbate tensions in the region, exacerbate tensions between the parties and make it harder to get back to the talks."

A top White House diplomatic nominee told lawmakers meanwhile that Washington would veto a measure in the Security Council to create a Palestinian state.

"I don't expect this to occur, but that if it did occur, if any such resolution were put in front of the Security Council... we would veto it," said Wendy Sherman, nominated as the US State Department's number-three official.

Israel and Washington are firmly opposed to the Palestinian campaign, arguing that a Palestinian state can be established only through negotiations.

"We are determined to protect our right to go to the UN to seek membership for the state of Palestine," Abu Rudeina added.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat, also speaking to AFP, said the meeting "revealed the scale of the differences between the positions -- There is still disagreement on going to the United Nations."

During the meeting, the two officials had reiterated Washington's opposition to the Palestinian plan and stressed the "intense efforts" being made by Quartet envoy Tony Blair to secure a statement from the diplomatic grouping urging both sides to resume peace talks.

Washington hopes to restart direct peace talks to head off the campaign for UN membership.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned Abbas late Tuesday and urged him to "work hard with us to avoid a negative scenario in New York" later this month, a State Department spokeswoman said.

Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians ground to a halt shortly after they were relaunched in Washington in September 2010 over the issue of settlement construction.

The Palestinians say they will not resume talks while Israel builds in annexed Arab east Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied West Bank, and they say any future negotiations must be based on clear parameters.

But they have also stressed they do not view the UN bid as excluding the possibility of new talks, and that a resumption of negotiations would not dissuade them from pursuing membership of the world body.


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