Kerry meets European ministers on Palestinian UN bid

Kerry meets European ministers on Palestinian UN bid

Paris (AFP) - US Secretary of State John Kerry jetted into Paris Monday for late night talks with European counterparts seeking to head off a UN crisis over a Palestinian bid for statehood.

His US Air Force plane touched down at Orly airport, south of the French capital, after he spent almost three hours locked in talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Rome.

Kerry was meeting over dinner with the foreign ministers of France, Britain and Germany inside the airport on a short stopover on his way to London, seeking clarification on a French-led bid to bring a resolution about the Palestinians to the UN Security Council.

"What we are hoping for is a resolution which everyone can get behind," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told AFP.

"Even if the Palestinians have a text in their hand, the Americans have already said that they will veto it," he said.

"So on the one hand this resolution cannot be accepted, but on the other that will clearly get a strong reaction from the Palestinian side."

Earlier Netanyahu angrily rejected a Palestinian bid to set a UN deadline for an end to Israel's occupation.

"We will not accept attempts to dictate to us unilateral moves on a limited timetable," the Israeli leader said before arriving in Italy.

The Americans are seeking to avert an end-of-year showdown at the United Nations Security Council, which could present them with a diplomatic quandary.

The Palestinians have said they will submit an Arab-backed draft text to the UN setting a two-year deadline for Israeli troops to withdraw from Palestinian lands as early as Wednesday.

- Wait and see -

But Jordan said it had no immediate plans to push for an early UN vote.

Jordan's Ambassador Dina Kawar to the UN told reporters: "Secretary Kerry is having meetings in Europe with a number of ministers so we are waiting to see what happens."

The French text, which is more nuanced, would set a two-year timetable, but for concluding a peace treaty without mentioning the withdrawal of Israeli forces.

Traditionally the US has used its power of veto at the UN Security Council to shoot down what it sees as moves against its close regional ally, Israel.

But there is a growing impatience in Europe over the peace impasse amid fears the Middle East risks spiralling into even greater chaos.

Several European parliaments have called on their governments to move ahead with the recognition of a Palestinian state.

US officials told reporters accompanying Kerry that Washington has not yet decided whether to veto or back the French-led UN initiative.

The US administration opposes moves to bind negotiators' hands through a UN resolution -- particularly any attempt to set a deadline for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank.

But a US veto risks running contrary to Washington's avowed aim of a Palestinian state and would anger key Arab allies -- many of whom are much-needed partners in the US-led coalition against Islamic State militants.

"We will stand firm in the face of any diktat," the Israeli leader said ahead of Monday's talks.

After his Paris talks, Kerry will then travel to London to meet with the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat and the secretary general of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi, on Tuesday.

France's Fabius is also to meet with Arabi on Tuesday.

Diplomatic sources say Paris is hoping to persuade the Palestinians to back their compromise resolution, rather than risk a US veto of the more muscular Arab version.

But the Palestinians appear divided, as frustration grows over the snail's pace of diplomatic efforts, with the decision resting with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas.