EU split on Palestinian push for recognition

Associated Press

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union remains undecided whether to support the Palestinian push for recognition at the United Nations later this month, a top official said Thursday.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the question hasn't been discussed by EU member states, because no such resolution has been tabled yet for the upcoming U.N. General Assembly.

The Palestinian statehood bid comes amid stalled peace negotiations with Israel. Israel and the United States oppose it, saying a state must be established through negotiations.

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.

Israel has been lobbying European capitals not to endorse the Palestinian 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. The rift has prevented the EU from officially recognizing Kosovo's government, although the bloc has deployed a massive police and justice mission to assist Europe's newest nation.

A diplomat said Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden are likely to back the resolution. Other nations may join if there is no progress in restarting peace talks over the next 2-3 weeks, said the official who was not authorized to speak publicly to the media.

Although the Palestinian bid may gain approval in the General Assembly, U.N. recognition would require approval by the powerful Security Council, where the U.S. has indicated it would veto any Palestinian move in the absence of a negotiated peace deal.

In the past, the United States has used its veto power to block membership in the world body. Throughout the 1950s and 60s, Washington regularly vetoed General Assembly resolutions calling for China to take over the U.N. seat which Taiwan held under the name Republic of China.

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