US spars with key allies at UN over Mideast peace approach

ALEXANDRA OLSON

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.S. derided the viability of reaching "international consensus" on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Tuesday, further distancing itself from the two-state solution preferred by most of the world and drawing rebukes from its European allies.

President Donald Trump's Mideast negotiator, Jason Greenblatt, delivered the harsh assessment during a U.N. Security Council debate as the White House says it is preparing to unveil the political portion of its Mideast peace plan.

Greenblatt dismissed the prospect of reaching global consensus on sensitive issues, including the fate of Palestinian refugees and the final status of contested Jerusalem. He suggested that numerous "ambiguously worded" Security Council resolutions should not serve as guiding principles for resolving the conflict.

"Let's stop kidding ourselves. If a so-called international consensus had been able to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it would have done so decades ago. It didn't," Greenblatt said.

The Palestinians have pre-emptively rejected Trump's Mideast peace plan, accusing him of being unfairly biased toward Israel. Last month, the Palestinians boycotted a conference in Bahrain where the White House launched the economic portion of its plan, accusing the U.S. of attempting to bribe them into dropping their most important political demands.

The Palestinians aspire to an independent state based on the lines from before the 1967 Mideast war, when Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem from its Arab neighbors.

The international community has endorsed the pre-1967 lines as the basis for a two-state solution. Speaking to reporters later, Greenblatt dismissed that consensus.

"If that were achievable, I think we'd already have peace. It's not achievable. It's not a deal, it seems, that anybody has been able to achieve," he said.

He did not rule out the idea that an independent Palestinians state could be achieved in some form but would not offer specifics of what the Trump plan might contain.

Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour said the Bahrain conference "neglected to even minimally acknowledge the root causes of this conflict" and said no amount of economic help would persuade the Palestinians to back off their demands for independence.

"All those who come to the Security Council to convince us that what we are doing does not make sense and that they have the magic formula ... they are not going to succeed," Mansour said.

Greenblatt's comments rankled other countries on the Security Council who would be key partners in any Mideast peace plan. Several ambassadors insisted there is international consensus for an independent Palestine to emerge from peace negotiations.

"It is the U.S. that has left the international consensus," said German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen.

Heusgen also criticized Greenblatt for his dismissive comments on U.N. resolutions, saying the U.S. insists the world abide by Security Council resolutions on other world conflicts, such as the North Korean nuclear standoff.

"For us international law is not an a la carte menu," Heusgen said.

Greenblatt said Trump has not decided when to release the political portion of the peace plan but said "we hope to make that decision soon."

He emphasized that Palestinian claims to east Jerusalem are "an aspiration, not a right."

"Please do not read into that statement anything about the content of the political portion of the plan," Greenblatt said. "Aspirations belong at the negotiating table. And only direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians can resolve the issue of Jerusalem, if it can be resolved."

But French Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere said his country remains committed to "the parameters agreed upon by the international community for the two-state solution."

Any attempt to abandon those parameters, he warned, "is doomed to fail."

Greenblatt told reporters that some of the ambassadors "misconstrued my remarks."

"I did not throw international law into the garbage," he said. "We don't think on this particular conflict, international law is clear."

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Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.