Palestinians push UN bid as Kerry meets Netanyahu

Palestinians push UN bid as Kerry meets Netanyahu

ROME - US Secretary of State John Kerry was Monday to meet the Israeli prime minister two days before Palestinians push for a draft UN resolution to end the Israeli occupation.

Amid a high-stakes diplomatic drive by the top US diplomat, the Palestinians upped the ante late Sunday by revealing in a surprise move they would put the draft text before the UN Security Council on Wednesday.

It would set a two-year deadline for Israeli troops to withdraw from the West Bank - a timetable which the United States has already opposed as complicating the stalled peace negotiations.

"The Palestinian leadership took a decision to go to the Security Council next Wednesday to vote on their project to end the occupation," senior Palestine Liberation Organisation member Wassel Abu Yussef told AFP Sunday after a meeting in Ramallah.

Kerry arrived in Rome Sunday where he met for more than three hours with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov seeking to head off the looming UN showdown.

Jordan last month circulated a draft Palestinian text setting November 2016 as a deadline for the end of the Israeli occupation.

"That's not the way I think that we would look at handling a very complicated security negotiation by mandating a deadline of two years," the State Department official said, asking not to be identified.

France stepped in last month to try to cobble together along with Britain and Germany a resolution that would win consensus at the 15-member council.

The new text would call for a return to negotiations aimed at achieving a two-state solution by which Israel and a Palestinian state would co-exist.

In the past, the US has consistently used its power of veto at the UN to block moves it sees as anti-Israel.

But US officials said Kerry was seeking to learn more about the European position, adding there did not appear to be a European consensus on any resolution.

The Israeli foreign ministry declined to comment ahead of the Monday afternoon talks in Rome between Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Kerry and Lavrov "agreed to continue working closely together on this issue and stressed the importance of all sides taking steps to reduce tensions," a State Department official said.

Since the collapse of Kerry's peace bid in April and the 50-day war in the Gaza Strip in the summer, there has been growing international concern about rising Israeli-Palestinian tensions.

"I believe the Middle East issue is crucial for making sure that we don't allow the situation to degrade further," Lavrov said.

After Netanyahu called snap elections in March, some Europeans have pointed to a narrow window of opportunity to push a resolution at the UN Security Council.

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